by Jake Runyon (@jakerunyon)
Let me start out by saying what everyone has been saying.
Dave Rice is a great guy. He wanted to bring UNLV back to the glory days. We all wanted it work out… but it didn’t. I feel bad for him, but I am confident he will land squarely on his feet. He will have several options for himself moving forward. I appreciate his effort, and I will look back on his tenure fondly.
Todd Simon has been named the interim head coach. I personally would have given the job Ryan Miller, but for some rea$on, Tina Kunzer Murphy didn’t ask for my opinion.
The UNLV athletic department (along with the boosters) have two months to get started on their head coaching search. I’ve composed a few lists of my own. One for the candidates I like, and another for candidates I don’t like and a third for candidates I’m on the fence about.
I’ll start out with the guys I don’t like.
-Tim Floyd (currently HC at UTEP): Floyd is popular name among basketball fans. He enjoyed marginal success at Iowa State before coaching in the NBA for Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets. After five years in the NBA he returned to the college basketball world by taking the head coaching position at USC where they were able to land some big recruits but never had any maintained success. He came under investigation by the NCAA and ultimately, resigned in 2009. The next year he took the HC position at UTEP. BOTTOM LINE: In his last 13 seasons coaching college basketball, he has lost 10 games or more in 12. UNLV fans don’t care about winning as much as they care about not losing
-Steve Lavin (former UCLA & St Johns HC): Steve Lavin is well-liked guy. He took UCLA to 5 sweet sixteens in 6 seasons. The wheels fell off in his final season and he was let go. After spending seven years as college basketball analyst, he became coach for St Johns. His tenure with the Johnnies was marked with inconsistency and he was fired at the end of 2015. BOTTOM LINE: Not a bad hire on paper, but I don’t think he would be a good fit for UNLV.
-Mike Brown (former HC for Cleveland Cavs and Los Angeles Lakers): Brown has been a name linked to UNLV in the past. After Lon Kruger took the Oklahoma job, Mike Brown, who had been let go by the Cavs a year before was a rumored candidate. After being fired by the Lakers in 2014, Brown was spotted at a few UNLV games. BOTTOM LINE: Brown has never coached college basketball at any level.
-Reggie Theus: Stop… just stop.
Guys I’m on the fence about:
-Josh Pastner (current Memphis HC): Pastner was the future of college basketball when he was hired by Memphis at only 31 years old after having served as an assistant in Arizona under Lute Olsen and in Memphis under John Calipari. After making the NCAA tournament four straight years from 2010-2014, Memphis has faded fast and has missed out on several big time recruits. Bottom line: Big name recognition. Bit potential, but Memphis has faded in recent years.
-Steve Henson (current Oklahoma assistant): Henson has been an assistant for Lon Kruger dating back to Kruger’s Illinois time. Everywhere Kruger has gone, he has brought Henson along with him. He is familiar with the Las Vegas but TKM is much different Jim Livengood. Some guys are also better as assistant coaches. Bottom line: Henson knows the game, he knows Las Vegas, but can he be the head man? If brings on Kevin Kruger… I’m all in!
-Frank Martin (current South Carolina HC): I was surprised to hear him name mentioned by CBS. Given that he is in a power 5 conference, and currently one of two undefeated teams in the country. Martin is a good coach… but I am literally scared of him. Have you seen how intense this guy is? He is the anti-Dave Rice on the emotional spectrum. Bottom line: His glare could melt steel.
-Leon Rice (current HC at Boise State): Leon Rice has been a success at Boise State. As long as they keep up the recruiting, they should remain one of top 4 teams in the conference. I think he could succeed at UNLV. The only real problem I have with Rice is that he just kind of irks me. Bottom Line: This guy has proven that he can coach in the Mountain West but he seems like a jerk sometimes.
Guys I like:
-Randy Bennett (current HC at St Mary’s): Bennett has turned St Mary’s into winners. Bennett may be ready for a new setting that doesn’t include Gonzaga. He is great at identifying & developing talent. The price tag is also reasonable as he is currently making around $400,000/ year. Bottom Line: Best bargain for UNLV and we know they are pretty cheap.
-Joe Pasternack (current assisant at Arizona): UNLV fans have been drooling over Archie Miller all season, but I just don’t see it ever happening. Pasternack is the next best thing. When Archie left for Dayton, Pasternack replaced him. Pasternack is a great recruiter, and other coaches who used to coach under Miller have been really successful. Bottom line: He could be the next Chris Mack or Archie Miller.
-Russell Turner (current HC at UCI): Turner was on the hot seat 4 years ago, but has since turned out 3 straight seasons of 20 plus wins. Turner once served as women’s coach. I think that any person who has coached women’s basketball, has a high basketball IQ. Women’s basketball depends a lot more on fundamentals and strategy than it does brute athleticism. Bottom line: He can coach, and maybe he can bring a guy who is 7’6.
-Gregg Gottlieb (current assistant at Oregon State): Gottlieb was part of the Steve Fisher’s rebuild at SDSU. He helped get the Aztecs to who they are today. He has helped identify and recruit great talent while he was as SDSU and at Cal. He might be ready to make that next step. Bottom line: HE IS DOUG GOTTLIEB’S BROTHER!!!
It is worth noting that UNLV’s biggest concern is to not overspend. Some of these guys may be demanding more than UNLV can offer… unless boosters are willing to shell over a lot more than have in the past. There are probably a dozen other candidates that I didn’t mention, but these seem to be the names I hear about the most.