UNLV BASKETBALL:

Livengood returns to Las Vegas today; coaching search hitting home stretch

Dave Rice still the front-runner while both he and Reggie Theus will be in town this week to interview

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Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Reggie Theus, center, remains one of the top two candidates for the vacant UNLV men’s basketball head coaching position along with BYU associate head coach Dave Rice. Theus was contacted by UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood on Sunday night, and is expected in Las Vegas at some point this week for a formal interview.

Updated Tuesday, April 5, 2011 | 10 p.m.

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BYU associate head coach Dave Rice

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UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood's trip to Houston for the Final Four was in no way a vacation, and upon returning to Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon, he still won't have much time to unwind.

The search for the school's next men's head basketball coach was barely more than 72 hours old, but it already appeared to be hitting the home stretch.

Some interesting names have been thrown into the pot in recent days, such as former Rebel great Larry Johnson and legendary Indiana coach Bob Knight, but all indications point to them having fizzled, with the same two candidates jockeying for position at the top — BYU associate head coach Dave Rice and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Reggie Theus.

According to several sources, Rice still remains in the lead position. He already met with Livengood in Houston over the weekend before returning to Provo on Monday afternoon, and the Sun learned on Tuesday that he'll be in town for a formal interview on Wednesday, where the rest of the school's administration will get a chance to get some face time with him.

Despite early suggestions that Theus was contacted right away, his first conversation with Livengood came Sunday night. He will likely be in town for his interview on Thursday.

"The formal interview process will be done in Las Vegas, certainly with the president (Neal Smatresk) present," Livengood said. "The big thing right now is just continuing to put the pieces together and do our due diligence."

Livengood hinted strongly that a selection could be made by the end of this week, ready to be presented to the Board of Regents at a regularly scheduled Friday meeting. Several sources close to the program are saying that, too.

The top two hopefuls themselves are remaining mum.

Smatresk maintained on Monday that he is leaving the coaching search primarily in the hands of the athletic director he hired a little over a year ago, though he and the rest of the administration have simply given some input as to qualities they would prefer the chosen hire to have.

"I think it's always nice when you can hire someone who has a connection to the university, because that may help to insure that they'll have a long tenure here if they're successful," Smatresk said. "You don't want someone who just wants to use UNLV as a stepping stone and move on. I want someone who wants to come here and be here for a long time, who will be a great coach and make us proud.

"I personally think that this should be a great destination for someone who wants to build their own legacy. I don't think of us as a stepping-stone program in basketball."

Both Rice and Theus would fit that bill, as both have long considered UNLV as their dream job.

Rice played on UNLV's back-to-back Final Four teams in 1990 and 1991. He was an 11-year UNLV assistant before Lon Kruger came to town, and since joining BYU's staff in 2005 has coordinated the program's offense and its recruiting efforts.

Theus suited up for the Rebels in Jerry Tarkanian's early days in the late 1970s, and after a storied college career, starred for 13 years in the NBA. After proving himself as a standout recruiter as an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville, he enjoyed a successful two-year run as a head coach at New Mexico State, including an NCAA tournament appearance in 2007. He left after that season to take over the NBA's Sacramento Kings.

While both coaches could institute exciting, uptempo styles of play that would click right away given UNLV's current batch of players, there's also a want at the top for the program to maintain the success off of the court that it enjoyed under Lon Kruger, who was introduced at Oklahoma at a Monday press conference.

"We have to have institutional control, and we need to continue that tradition that Lon Kruger set for us," regent Mark Alden said. "Every time there was even a blip on the radar screen, he took care of it immediately. He was cooperative with the athletic director, he was open with the press. Everything was open with him, and nothing was hidden. That's the way the program needs to be run."

A third darkhorse candidate for the position remains, and that's St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap. One of the nation's hottest names among the assistant coaching ranks, Dunlap, who has deep West Coast ties, was brought to Arizona in 2008 as an associate head coach when Livengood was the school's AD.

Dunlap is a defensive guru, and was contacted over the weekend by Livengood. He is rumored to be wanting to make a move back west.

Either way, expect the thorough coaching search to wind down this week just as fast as it heated up.

"All I'm concerned with is we don't have a rush to judgment," Smatresk added. "The wrong number is one right now. We need to look at a couple, three people. We need to make a good, solid decision.

"We don't have to go so fast that we don't consider every possibility."

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  1. WE NEED REGGIE!!!

  2. All three candidates are ok. I see strengths from all 3 individuals but lets be honest, as great as Reggie was here at UNLV, is he really a guy that can bring consistancy to UNLV? Yes he brought a bad team to the tourney, but one season is not really enough to make snap judgements on, same reason why I opposed a guy like a Shaka Smart. Rice is also a nice candidate, we all know he wants the job and were hoping he would still be around when Kruger retired at UNLV(which all changes know). Dunlap would be a good hire as well, 2 solid years at 2 big time programs like Arizona and St. Johns.
    Livengood please make the right choice, all we have is UNLV basketball to look forward to during 2-10 football seasons, cant imagine what would happen if basketball stinks up the arena as well. We need to get behind the new coach just like we did Kruger and continue to fill that arena, even if it means bringing 6000 students to the games.

  3. I would be satisfied with either Theus or Rice but I think Reggie will get the kind of players that we all want to see. Nice options to have.

  4. It could go either way for me. Initially, I wanted Theus. Seems like a great fit for the program and would keep up the level of awareness centered around UNLV which would help recruiting and much more. It would be nice to have Rice's connections at Gorman though and try and keep some of that local talent here. Either way, we have some talent returning next year and with the conference jumbled up, have to be the favorite to win it.

  5. I like rice, however, I'm scared about the crappy byu defense he might bring here. Also whoever it is next year, expect a -20 win season. Our schedule is really tough and these guys will have little time to prepare for it. That's another thing that scares me about rice. I don't want a cup cake schedule that byu plays. That's why they can't win in the tourney and it's not fun to watch. Plus the big name teams get us on tv.

  6. To be consistently in the top few programs year in and year out......to be in the TALK come Tourney time, you have to 1) Recruit...and 2) you have to get on NATIONAL TV. Period. And you cant do #1 if you dont have #2. P E R I O D. For some reason i see Theus as being able to get thing swinging and sizzling faster and getting us towards those 5-8 NAtional tv games. Primetime ones as well, not Midnight east coast games. a few ESPN games, and a couple of CBS or ABC weekend games.

  7. Remeber its not just about WINNING to get back on TV...or BUTLER would be on ESPN all year next year....THEY WONT BE! Why ??Because Brad Stevens and Butler are boring. Their Not Duke.....Their not North Carolina.....Now UNLV...when their consistently winning...or nearing Final Fours ...with the Right Coach and style of play...can be in the discussion again, and command TV contracts.......UTAH could win all they want and it would take YEARS of them dominating college bball to get on TV regularly.....Unlv would take two -3 deep runs. Theus is the man for that.

  8. A lot of boosters will bail if its not Theus.

  9. you couldn't pick a better example than Utah who will now receive WAY more TV coverage as part of the Pac 12?

  10. I think many of you are forgetting the simple fact that not being on ESPN has very little to do with UNLV. It's The Mtn. network and the Mountain West's crappy TV contract that limits the number of games UNLV will have on national TV. The only time we hit ESPN is when we play in one of those holiday tournaments that ESPN carries, like the 76 Classic last year. Whichever coach gets chosen for our job will have very little impact on what type of TV coverage we get, even when we return to the exciting, running style we all hope to see.

    If you're focusing on TV coverage, the more interesting point is how the defections of Utah and BYU will affect negotiations regarding the MWC TV deal since they were the two who really pushed for The Mtn. network deal in the first place.

    I think people are just making things up if they think that Reggie is the ONLY RIGHT CHOICE and all of the money will disappear if Rice is hired. Dave Rice has a lot of local ties here and there are a lot of boosters who prefer him as well. This is one of those choices where I think it will work out great regardless of who gets hired. I'm also not sure why anyone would come on here and predict a bad season next year, by our standards. Theus or Rice will come in and implement an offensive system that will actually fit the style of our players. We do have a tough non-conference schedule, but I really think we'll run pretty well through the conference. Instead of 2 games against BYU, we'll have 2 against Boise State. SDSU has to replace a ton of players. One common thing that happens every time Kruger leaves a school, the replacement comes in and has a good year right off the bat.

  11. haha, "institutional control". there's your veiled reason for rice over theus right there. he's insinuating that boy scout rhodes scholar rice will do as he's told and that they think reggie might be more of a wild card. not entirely sure where they're getting that idea (perhaps because rice is used to recruiting and coaching those fine upstanding citizens that played at byu, all the while adhering to their vaunted honor code), but it does appear to be the issue all this is hinging upon. and if that truly is their impression of the two, reggie probably never had a real chance. when you're in on the top players in the nation, there is more risk associated with them, i.e. herb pope and his shooting. this point also lends credence to ed graney's r.j. article about valuing stability over flash, as if the two couldn't coexist. the media and the administration all seem to be crying, in unison, "oh please, bring us another kruger! a nice man, a humble man, a man the 2A and steve wynn will approve of!" well excuse me, but our best days were when we were led by a man who epitomized the word "rebel". and before anyone gives me the whole "he was a cheater" spiel, do some reading on the guy. his reputation as such was mainly a creation of the same 2A and media. pretty hard to cheat with impunity--especially in the manner they portrayed tark as having done--when you're under the most fevered, intense and prolonged investigation in the history of college basketball, and one that was brought on because he didn't keep his mouth shut about the hypocrisy of the 2A rule enforcement. men of integrity are often pejoratively called rebels and mistreated accordingly. and so now, seemingly, theus is being tarred by worries that he'd be more like tarkanian than some cowards in this town are comfortable with. if so, shame on them. you don't live in chapel hill, or lawrence, or lexington, you live in vegas. stop trying to turn this city and everything in it into the town from which you moved. this place was founded by outlaws; it wouldn't kill us to have a little of that attitude ourselves. if memory serves, it might even be fun.

  12. Amen Adrock. Dead on.

  13. lobo-
    How many UNLV boosters do you know?

    At first I wanted Rice because he's young, he won't cost a lot, and his background with winning programs. But now I'm leaning toward Theus. The guy got talented players to come to Las Cruces, NM. If he can get kids to go there then surely he can get some talent to Vegas. If the price isn't too high then get Reggie. Throw LJ, Rice, Greg Anthony, and Stacy Augmon on the bench and that'd be a killer staff. Heck...suit those guys up and let them practice against the players. Either way I believe that UNLV basketball will improve. Get the Rebels Runnin again and get the Mack Packed!
    REEEEEBELS!

  14. Unlv won't get on espn even if we had the contract. Last year we played three road games agiant teams with espn contracts while we were in the rankings and espn didn't air any of the games. There contract doesn't nessecarly mean crap.

  15. At first a was leaning towards Reggie, but now I see them about even the more I think about it. I do think that Reggie would be a better recruiter and have more east coast ties. But remember, Rice was part of the staff that recruited Kaspars Kambala, Tyrone Nesby, Keon Clark, Marcus Banks, Shawn Marion, and Lou Amundson. All players that were either highly regarded recruits, were NBA players, or both. True, who knows how much Rice was involved with these guys, but you know he learned a bit on how to recruit. He truly is handcuffed by BYU's honor code and has done an admirable job.
    On the flip side I totally agree with everything adrock said. Are the same people who complained about Kruger's recruiting the guys who don't want Reggie because of a couple of shady guys? Tark filled squads full of questionable guys and turned them (mostly) into very good citizens. Kruger did recruit Tre' and I beleive he offered Renardo Sidney.
    Either way, I'm getting more excited about next year's team. True I think there will be growing pains with a rough non con schedule, but I think they will really be hitting their stride by the end of the season, when it counts the most. Both of these coaches will push the ball more which really fits this current team, even playing 2 bigs at once. By the way, without Kruger, is there any doubt that we would actually play 2 bigs together and move Chace to the 3. Holy crap it feels like Christmas!

  16. Where does everyone keep getting this idea that Greg Anthony would want to be an assistant College coach?

  17. This is a difficult hire for UNLV.

    Coach Kruger built an amazing foundation for the men's basketball program in Las Vegas. And both men mentioned in the article above are flawed. Rice, with zero head coaching experience and an unproven recruiter, is a long shot to advance the program in the long term. Theus, on the other hand and at least to me, seems like a risk to simply destroy that foundation as a whole. Some will and have argued that is a good thing, I however disagree.

    I am not sure where the answer is here. To me, just have to hope and trust that Mr. Livengood does not make a rush hire just because these two names have been the subject of a popularity contest by fans.

  18. BYU's recruiting never had much to do with Rice. All the Mormon players go there because its BYU, not because the BYU coaches are good recruiters. besides having ties to Gorman, I don't see how Rice would compare to Reggie.

  19. I don't think Greg Anthony will be an assistant coach. I just think that'd be cool to see him on the Rebels bench. Can you imagine recruiting for UNLV with LJ, Theus, Anthony, and Augmon?

  20. I dont know many Boosters personally. I just follow "The Rebel Den" on facebook and his sources seem to think so.

  21. It's always funny to read peoples comments about "young energetic coaches" being the answer. This comment is usually followed by names like Mark Few, Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens and others who HAVE established what UNLV did 20 years ago. What makes you all thunk ANY of those coaches would want the UNLV job? Second only to Philly Las Vegas has absolutely THE most ungrateful/spoiled rotten know it all fanbase in the country. Any "young" coach worth a crap is busy dreaming of building his own Butler, VCU, or Gonzaga. Coming to UNLV and dealing with this "once a pretty girl now a dried up old hag" attitude in Las Vegas is about as appealing as a frontal lobotomy with a dull rusty butter knife.

    With that said, Livengood played his "Young Head Coach" card on Bobby Hauck. UNLV and it's spoiled entitled fans will get what they deserve Mike Dunlap a nice safe bet and slight worse then Lon Kruger who will wind up setting UNLV back a good 5 years and hopefully put this fanbase to bed. It took UCLA decades and loads of "former alums" as coaches before those expectations were lowered enough for people to be excited again. Remember all the calls of "Jesus, act like you've been there before" when the kids swamped the floor after a big win. I do. And the answer is No they haven't been there before and neither have you guys since 1991.

  22. Huh?

  23. These high school kids don't know players from 20 years ago. Also, Jimmer is overrated.

  24. It just kills me that bottom-feeder WAC schools like San Jose State get a sweet ESPN contract but the MWC gets a nothing more than a cable access show. Seriously? "The Mtn."?

  25. How many San Jose State games did you see this year? I wouldn't say that their contract is "sweet".

  26. "These high school kids don't know players from 20 years ago."

    Maybe that's true for most of the players of 1990, but not the UNLV team of 1989-1991. Arguably the best team in the history of college ball -- and if the kids don't know that, well, they aren't much into college basketball.

  27. David Rice is the logical choice. Livengood should pull the trigger immediately. With Rice as coach I am sure UNLV would have a shot at Shahbaz Muhammad and other Bishop Gorman kids, after all Rice's brother is the coach there.

  28. We all appreciate what Lon Kruger did for the program, in both restoring a winning tradition and changing the perception of Rebel basketball. Now, it is time to take the program to the next level. The person to do this, along with all of us in Las Vegas, is Reggie Theus.

    Theus has the proven ability as a head coach -- he turned around New Mexico State and had the Aggies winning the WAC and making the NCAA Tournament in his second season. As a former NBA All-Star, Reggie has the street cred that would attrack recruits. We know from his days at NMSU that Theus will return the "Runnin' " in Rebels again.

    Most importantly, Reggie Theus has charisma. He would be a rock star in Las Vegas and Thomas & Mack would be full again with Reggie bringing in 5- and 4-star recruits and the Rebels running teams out of the Mack.

    Dave Rice is a good coach and a great person. However, he has never been the top man. He is much more of a gamble than Theus. And Dave does not have the ability to attract the level of recruits that Theus would nor does he have the charisma that is going to pack the Mack. There is a reason that Utah, Wyoming, Fresno State and Bradley have all recently passed on Rice -- lack of proven experience as a head coach. So why should UNLV settle for a coach that was not chosen by those schools in the past couple weeks?

    The choice is clear -- hire Reggie Theus as the next UNLV basketball coach!

  29. BTW- Notice to all prospective UNLV coaching applicants. You will be expected to within your first 3-5 years advance to the Final Four at least twice and winning a National Championship at least one of those trips. If you plan on sticking around after that period you will be expected to then create a Duke like Dynasty of the West and win 2-3 National Championships over the next 5 year span. For all of your efforts expect to earn slightly more then the head janitor at UConn and suffer the wrath of every pinheaded "Superfan" with Internet access and a "verified" Las Vegas Sun account.

    Dave my advice to you is "head for zee hills" the lynch mob that took down Jerry are still alive and well and trolling the UNLV campus. Good Luck

  30. I'd enjoy some reporting on what Rice and Theus coaching staffs would look like, should they get the job. That's a hugely underrated (and under reported) aspect of success at the collegiate level. These are the guys that build relationships to get kids here, and coach them up and keep them out of trouble when they get here.

    And I'm not talking about Dream Teams of Augmon (who'd have to take serious pay cut), Anthony (who'd take an even larger pay cut), Moses Scurry, Travis Bice and 15 other glory years guys (although it does seem the LJ might be a possibility, which is awesome).

    Sun Reporters, can you get that story done and up by 5 o'clock tonight?? Seriously, tomorrow a.m. would be fine.

  31. Lets take a look at some of the realities of the selection process of the next head coach of UNLV basketball.

    Fiction: Rice can recruit, and has connections with Gorman to get Shabazz Mohammed.

    Fact: BYU attracts any Mormon player they want anyway, despite who the coaches are by nature of the school itself. BYU with Rice since 2005 has only gotten one Bishop Gorman player, Jonathan Tavernari (who I might add was a negative for much of his 4 years there). Not only that, but Rice's ability to recruit top quality athletes from the inner city (Top 50 material that makes deep runs in the tournament) is a large question that remains unanswered, while Reggie Theus' experience at Louisville under Rick Pitino as well as at NMSU have shown he can recruit them quite effectively. In addition, Theus' charisma, and flash (shown to be far superior to Rice's) may in fact give him a better chance of recruiting Gorman kids than Rice does.

    Fiction: Rice is a more "safe" candidate.

    Fact: Reggie Theus not only has head coaching experience (which David Rice obviously lacks), but also has had success at the college level (NMSU went to the Dance two years removed from a 6 win season), as well as NBA experience with the Sacramento Kings. This fact proves he is the more "proven" and "safe" candidate thanks to his superior experience. For those who would like to point out that Theus would bring in recruits with checkered pasts, think for a minute about the kind of players Tark recruited. Lon Krugeresque recruiting of nice suburban kids (who would be playing at a school like Duke if they were talented enough) won't lead to consistent success in the tournament as shown by recent years.

    Part-Fiction: The hiring of Rice would connect UNLV's current program with its glorious past.

    Fact: By nature of being a former benchwarmer and token GPA booster on loaded UNLV squads, Rice would definitely give UNLV a connection to its past. Contrast that to Theus' role as the best player on the '77 Final Four squad. But there are other facts to be considered. Firstly Jerry Tarkanian's comment that "Not hiring Theus would be a joke" proves that the most influential figure of UNLV's past thinks the hiring would be a major step for the program, and Theus would undoubtedly have his full support. Secondly Theus would have a better chance of attracting Former Rebel Greats as assistants, including Stacey Augmon (who according to LJ has shown interest), Sidney Greene, and Larry Johnson himself, due to his prestige and coaching style, than Rice would.

    Heartbreaking Fact: The concept of "institutional control" and the desire for a docile coach in the mode of Lon Kruger will likely lead Jim Livengood, despite major support from fans and some boosters for Theus, to hire David Rice.

    Undeniable fact: REGGIE THEUS should be the next head Basketball coach of UNLV.

  32. I just wrote the Sun an article, I should get a chack or something :]

  33. *check

  34. Strictly off of a coaching stanpoint and basketball resume Reggie wins all day everyday. If you want to judge this strictly off of credentials Reggie wins again. If you want to guage this off of recruiting ability, Reggie wins again. Who has the better public charisma, Reggie wins again. Who will put together a better staff, I believe Reggie will. Who will draw more revenue into UNLV Reggie will. Reggie wins every single coaching category you could come up with. Dave is one heck of a nice guy but he is not the best coach available who wants this job & besides I doubt Dave Rice could recruit any better then Lon did.

  35. Undeniable fact: You're annoying.
    Undeniable fact: All your "facts" are opinions-not facts and all highly debateable.
    Please say undeniable opinion and I'm biased on your next posts.
    Rice for sure and if we can't secure him then let's get kent..then Knight..then Theus.
    God Bless ya and I'll be here all night!

  36. We better not get Kent!!!! I still hate that guy for being the coach of Oregon when that 4'5" guy hit all those 30 foot 3's against us in the Sweet 16 in 2007. I would not be able to forgive him for that.

  37. @neil18,
    while youngrebelfan40's post isn't perfect, he does actually put more effort into making a case than i've seen you do. simply saying dave rice is "our man" and calling youngrebelfan's points "highly debatable" don't equal a compelling argument. if his "facts" are so debatable then please, by all means, debate them. it's endlessly frustrating to see the rice-boosters credit him with so many great attributes as if theus doesn't also possess the very same ones, and more. there are actually many similarities between the two, but if you're so convinced that rice is better, please make an actual case. if you're going to castigate people for being biased, perhaps you ought to move out of your glass home first.

    not trying to bag on you, as we're all clearly passionate rebel fans, but come on man. i've seen you advocate bob knight and mark few, for crying out loud.

  38. What makes you people think that hiring Dave Rice all these kids from Gorman will flock to UNLV. It doesnt make sense. They could go to North Carolina, Duke or Texas and play a nationally televised game every week and play for a national championship or come to UNLV and play for an unprovin coach with no nation wide exposure. I know what I would do. Hire Bobby Knight that would be fun.

  39. Ernie Kent? That name came from out of nowhere. I thought Livengood said the list contained three candidates, not four.
    www.RebelReign.com

  40. Its interesting how much EXTERNAL perception is playing a factor in the decision and how phrases like "safe" and "institutional control" carry as much weight as wins or experience. Something is driving the criteria from strictly basketball into another realm of program cop/image control. As much as Tark set the standard for winning & excellence...it cannot be denied that his regime also came with a "shady" image the powers that be today want DESPERATELY to avoid. But at the same time....they want to embrace the winning and all the benefits & support that came with it.

    Internally, I think Theus is the better choice & has the stronger pedigree and more fan support. Externally, I think Rice is the better pick because he IS linked to the past...but doesnt define it like Theus does. Its almost as if the fact that Theus was a star here hurts him....because the people in the ivory towers who make the decisions are terrified, with good reason(I dont think anybody wants to relive the post Tark yrs), that the public (aka media & the NCAA) will link Theus to the past and come to the simpleton conclusion that "Tark's Way" is back. Rice is the antidote to that. It will be interesting to see which perception carries more weight to Smatresk & Livengood.

  41. When I read those words "Institutional Control" I already knew the fix was in to hire Donnie Osmond Jr. Nice smoke screen to make it look like this is a legitimate coaching race when Rice for whatever reason is given front runner status over a man whose credentials dominate his. There is no debateable reason as to why Rice should get this job over Theus. Anybody that knows basketball or can ball themselves knows Reggie should have this job like yesterday. If this goes down & Rice is hired over Reggie it will be a political hire within the ranks of the BYU brotherhood unofficially but most of us can see right through the smoke screen.

  42. I dont want to see anyone coach whose ever been associated with UNLV or Tark ! I dont want anything less than an improvement over Kruger..... he did a great job but we should look for better and never settle again.

  43. Neil, annoying as I may be I don't see you contributing anything to the debate whatsoever except for anonymously insulting me. If my points are debateable please debate them with me.

    Oh I almost forgot to take your suggestion: "This is undeniable opinion and I'm biased" towards the basketball program of UNLV and the future success thereof. (which does not include hiring a philandering loser like Ernie Kent)

  44. Though he may not be a UNLV alum, Mike Dunlap did a fantastic job at AZ under very very difficult conditions. He was praised by everyone there.