So, who’s the odds-on favorite for Kruger’s job?

Wynn sports book director handicaps coaching prospects

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Leila Navidi

Odds-making guru Johnny Avello heads the race and sports book at the Wynn.

BYU associate head coach Dave Rice

BYU associate head coach Dave Rice

Reggie Theus

Reggie Theus

Click to enlarge photo

Wynn odds on who will be the next UNLV head basketball coach.

When Lon Kruger accepted the UNLV coaching job in 2004, he regarded firing the remaining assistants as “the toughest thing to do.”

Little did Kruger know that seven years later, one of those assistants would be a top candidate to succeed him as UNLV’s coach. As soon as sources confirmed Kruger had taken the Oklahoma job Friday afternoon, buzz about a replacement focused on BYU associate head coach Dave Rice.

Wynn Las Vegas sports book director Johnny Avello listed Rice at 3-to-1 to become the next UNLV coach in for-entertainment-only odds compiled for the Sun.

Rice is the second-longest tenured assistant coach in program history after working at UNLV from 1994 to 2004. He was also a reserve on both the 1990 national championship team and 1991 Final Four squad before beginning his coaching career as part of Jerry Tarkanian’s final UNLV staff.

Rice has long been regarded as a top-notch assistant coach, but recently his name has surfaced in association with several head coaching job openings. He was a rumored candidate for vacancies at both Bradley and Wyoming before the spots were filled this week. Rice remains a rumored possibility for Utah.

UNLV would make the most sense for Rice, who still has strong ties to Las Vegas. His brother, Grant Rice, is head coach at high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman.

Bishop Gorman has three of the country’s top recruits in the class of 2012 in Shabazz Muhammad, Rosco Allen and Ben Carter. UNLV had already offered scholarships to all three, but the chances of landing Gorman players would appear to improve with Rice at the helm.

Here is a rundown of some of the other potential candidates for UNLV’s opening, in order of Avello’s odds:

Reggie Theus (2-to-1): Theus is a member of the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame after starring on the 1977 team that reached the Final Four. He has head coaching experience in college and the NBA, leading New Mexico State from 2005-07 before holding the Sacramento Kings job for two seasons. It’s believed Theus would jump at the opportunity to return to his alma mater after unsuccessfully making a push for the post the last two times it was open.

Bruce Pearl (10-to-1): The Tennessee men’s basketball program transformed from an afterthought to a perennial tournament team under Pearl’s watch the past six seasons. But Pearl’s recent NCAA violations make it unlikely any program, especially UNLV, will go after him.

Ernie Kent (60-to-1): Kent spent 13 years at Oregon before being fired after the 2010 season. He took the Ducks to two Elite Eights during his tenure and has West Coast recruiting ties. But Kent struggled in his last two seasons at Oregon, going a combined 24-39.

Jeff Capel (75-to-1): It would be a straight swap as Capel guided Oklahoma for the past half-decade. Although Capel’s Oklahoma tenure ended poorly, he had previous success at Virginia Commonwealth.

Steve Wojciechowski (100-to-1): Wojciechowki is the top assistant under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, a position he has held for 12 years. His name comes up every year as coaching jobs come open.

Mike Dunlap (125-to-1): Dunlap is regarded as one of the most underrated assistants in the country. He helped coach Steve Lavin get St. John’s to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years this season. As far as UNLV ties, Dunlap served as an associate head coach at Arizona three years ago under current Athletic Director Jim Livengood.

Mike Peck (175-to-1): Another potential candidate with UNLV ties, Peck worked as the Rebels’ video coordinator before becoming coach of Findlay Prep. Peck has helped the Henderson-based program become one of the best high school teams in the country in recent years. But he has no college head coaching experience, making him a long shot for the position.

Gregg Marshall (200-to-1): Early Friday, Marshall’s was a name associated with the Oklahoma job. He’s fresh off an NIT Championship with Wichita State and highly regarded.

Sidney Green (250-to-1): Green is another former Rebel with coaching experience, but doesn’t have the same buzz as Rice or Theus. Green has coached Long Island, Florida Atlantic and North Florida since his playing days.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Wow! They already have they odds up for this at the book?

  2. Just placed a wager on Dave Rice to win. Just because he is already familiar with all the players and teams in the MWC and strong recruiting ties in Vegas.

  3. Please hire Reggie Theus.

  4. I don't care who they hire, as long as they make about $75k/yr max.

    Basketball? Whole educational departments are being eliminated at UNLV, and the sports nuts act like the cretins they are.

  5. Some of these are a joke. If Capel or Wojciechowski was even considered a candidate I would never attend another Rebel game again until the current AD and President were fired. Considering either of those two would be a slap in the face of every loyal UNLV alum!

  6. I want Theus, I think that's the obvious choice but how about John Welch. Played at UNLV for Tark, was a GA on the 1987 Final Four team, played international ball, Coached with Tark at Fresno St., currently an assistant with the Denver Nuggets

  7. Some of these clearly were meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek. The Las Vegas Sun gave Mr. Avello an initial list of possible coaching candidates to work from yesterdat, and he added and subtracted to and from that list. Any of the folks on this list who seem a little goofy were certainly put on there by us, not Mr. Avello. This was done not only to make this exercise a mixture of something somewhat serious and a little fun, but also just to see what sort of astronomical odds he might be put on someone like Bobby Knight or even Tark.

    Throughout all of the Sun's coverage of this, our UNLV reporter Ryan Greene has been tweeting almost everything he learns as soon as he learns it. From his posts on Twitter today, we know that Livengood has already spoken with Dave Rice, and that Reggie Theus and Mike Dunlap have also been contacted.

    Ryan also has tweeted that there are strong indications that Kruger's entire coaching staff will be going with him to Oklahoma in some sort of capacity.

  8. I loved him in American Pie, but really his picks are very funny.

    Theus, Kent, Romar, Marshall, Smart, Stevens all make sense. Floyd was offered at Arizona before Miller took it and ran with it.

    Proven D 1 Coaches, Rice has not even been mentioned for the opening at Fresno State or Eastern Washington for their jobs. Why would UNLV hire Rice when a Big Sky school would not be asking about him. Outside Jimmer, what else does BYU have? Theus and the others know how to get into a living room of a top recruit. That is what UNLV needs.

    Ryan has gotten great press on the ESPN site about this hire. Rice is just not the guy. Hire Grant to be on the UNLV bench with Sidney Green and now we are talking about a major force. If Eastern Washington is not asking about Rice, why should UNLV. Hire Lorenzo Romar he can get D1 McDonalds All Americans to Washington. He would kill it at UNLV

  9. Take a look at Ty Corbin - Utah Jazz head coach.

  10. Disagree with Kirtland. Bring in another head coach from another program and just get the same results that we keep on getting. Nobody knew about Butler and VCUs coaches before the last 2 tournaments. They were given chances and both did great. Why is Theus Kirt Rambis's assistant in Minnesota? He cant' get a job that's why. Rice has paid his dues for years, just like Mark Few and many others, and proved his worth at BYU. He'll recruit just fine. The head coach doesnt' recruit anyway-his assts will do that. So if Theus is a great recruiter then he'll make a good asst for Rice. I'll take Rice as the X and O guy and he is much more familiar with the college game- specifically the Mountain West. Perfect pick. Also, fans dont' come to watch coaches. I know we don't go to Rebel games to watch washed up players sit on a chairs. LJ has never coached period! Augmon would make a good asst. At least he's coached. Be realistic people.

  11. I couldn't say any better than this article that Rice is the best choice.
    http://www.lvrj.com/sports/forget-flash-...