May 5, 2021 

Why Arizona gave Adia Barnes a shiny new contract extension

Includes $5.85 million in base salary compensation over five years

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SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 29: in the Elite Eight round of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Alamodome on March 29, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

After an unforgettable 2021 season with the Wildcats that included the program’s first-ever trip to the Final Four, head coach Adia Barnes and Arizona have agreed to new financial terms to her contract.

This goes for her previously announced contract extension through the 2025-26 season. Barnes is now getting $5.85 million in base salary compensation over the five years, and there were no changes made to incentive structure.

It certainly helped matters that a number of programs, including Baylor, inquired about Barnes’ interest in coaching vacancies, sources tell The Next.

Of course, this is well-earned on Barnes’ part and she is grateful for the recognition, but her eyes are set on a bright future for her program.

Throughout Arizona’s historic NCAA Tournament run this year, Barnes would mention how grateful she was to be a part of her school’s athletics program. She’s surrounded by legendary coaches and people that push for her success.

That mentality of support is manifested in this contract extension and pay raise. Dave Heeke, Arizona’s Vice President and Director of Athletics voiced his confidence in Barnes after the deal.

“As this past season made perfectly clear, Arizona Women’s Basketball has joined the nation’s elite under Coach Barnes’ leadership and will remain there for a long time to come. This new contract demonstrates our continued commitment to our women’s basketball program, and to Adia, who has revitalized our program and brought the excitement and energy to a whole new level.”

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 27: Arizona takes on Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 at Alamodome on March 27, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Despite being overlooked and doubted for some of their season, the Wildcats danced very well at the tournament, including a 69-59 dominating victory over powerhouse UConn. After that game, Barnes said she believes in her team and “would run through a wall for them,” in case you needed an idea of how big her dedication is to her program.

And even though she pushed her team to new heights this year, the journey is far from over for Barnes. She’s been spending her time since the tournament as an assistant coach on Dawn Staley’s USA Basketball staff.

And of course, she stays hungry for her Wildcats. She wants to elevate her program to legendary status, as coaches like Geno Auriemma (UConn), Staley (South Carolina) and others have. But more importantly, she wants to continue to work with college players.

“I enjoy college, because one of the things I love about coaching is mentoring, building relationships, watching my players grow throughout the years. They comein one way and leave another. I love that process … I’m not saying ‘never say that,’ but I don’t aspire to be in the WNBA. I aspire to build a really successful program in college … I want to be where it’s not like a shock when Arizona’s in the championship game.”

Barnes has put together an 89-66 record in her five seasons as the head coach of her alma mater and has already risen in the program’s record book as the third winningest coach in Arizona history.

She was also the youngest coach to reach the Final Four since 2014, and the only coach in Arizona history to tally three 20-win seasons in the first five seasons at the helm.

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 27: in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament held at the at Alamodome on March 27, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Barnes has led star players like Aari McDonald, who was the third overall pick of the WNBA Draft to Atlanta, but she’s also pushed her players academically. Sam Thomas was named this year’s Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year, the first Wildcat in program history to earn the honor.

The school’s support of what Barnes is doing with her women’s basketball program goes beyond this contract deal, and means more than money to Barnes.

“It means the world to me that they trust me to lead this incredible program and are invested in our success. I am honored to coach at my alma mater and represent Tucson, a city where it all began for me. This contract is a commitment to our sport, Arizona Women’s Basketball, and this University. It is my responsibility to honor that commitment with a relentless pursuit of a national championship, and I can’t wait until we pack McKale again with the best fans in the country.”

With Barnes’ leadership and infectious winning mentality locked down for the next five years, the future is bright in the desert for the Wildcats.

Written by Sydney Olmstead

Pac-12 and Las Vegas Aces reporter.

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