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Published Tuesday, May 3, 2011 | 8 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | 1:30 a.m.
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The answer that new UNLV men's basketball coach Dave Rice was waiting for finally came just before he attended a 6 p.m. fundraising event Tuesday night, when he was informed that former Rebels teammate Stacey Augmon will be joining his staff as an assistant coach.
Augmon, who is the program's third all-time leading scorer and helped lead UNLV to the 1990 NCAA title, joins Rice, Justin Hutson and Heath Schroyer on the bench.
"It's huge," Rice said. "It's huge because he was a great player here, he accomplished everything that every guy who goes to college wants to accomplish, winning a national championship. Being on the team with him, I knew he was a great player. What really stood out to me, though, was his commitment to winning and what a great teammate he was.
"Guys who are great teammates often become great coaches."
Rice and Augmon played together for legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV from 1989-91. An offer to Augmon was made not long after Rice accepted the job early in April, but he had to wait for the Denver Nuggets' season to end. That happened last Wednesday night, as Augmon comes back to his alma mater after spending four seasons on George Karl's staff.
Augmon, known as one of the greatest defenders in UNLV history, scored 2,011 points from 1987-91. He was the ninth overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, selected by the Atlanta Hawks. He played in Atlanta until 1996 and also spent time with Detroit, Portland, Charlotte/New Orleans and Orlando in a playing career that ended in 2006.
With his three assistants in place, Rice can now move forward into determining roles within his staff. Though he has nothing specific in mind just yet for Augmon, Rice said he expects him to have a hand in overall player development, defensive game-planning and, obviously, recruiting. Several players UNLV will recruit over the next few years likely won't remember Augmon from his playing days, but their families just might.
Augmon was one of several former Rebels who had a strained relationship with the university for several years over the controversial end to the Tarkanian Era in 1992. Rice said he believes that none of that factors in anymore with Augmon.
"He's looking forward; he's proud of what the teams he was a part of at UNLV accomplished, and I think he sees a great opportunity to work with the young guys who are here now," Rice said. "I think it was a big decision, but I think that in the end, just the opportunity to come back to his alma mater helped him make that decision.
"From Day One, we've talked about the program and the tradition of the program. There's no one who played here who epitomized what it means to be a Rebel more than Stacey Augmon. That's a starting point."
Several of those former Rebels were welcomed back into the fold by Lon Kruger during his seven-year run as UNLV's head coach, during which he not only helped the program again embrace its glory days, but he put it back on solid ground. UNLV has gone to the NCAA tournament four times in the past five years, and Kruger left a cupboard loaded with talent in place for Rice and his staff following his departure last month for the head coaching position at Oklahoma.
“I am excited about coming back to UNLV,” Augmon said in a statement released by the university on Tuesday night. “I am looking forward to working with coach Rice and the rest of the staff. It will be great to be back in the city where we were part of a dynasty. I want to thank Jim Livengood and President Smatresk, along with coach Rice for bringing me back. I am anxious to get started working with the young talent that is currently on the team and to help take the program to the next level.”
Specifics involving Augmon's contract have yet to be finalized but should be over the next couple of days. For a ballpark range of what he'll be paid, Hutson was brought on at a salary of $175,000 for next season, while Schroyer will make $150,000. As for Rice's contract, it likely won't bet set in stone and approved by the Board of Regents for a few more weeks, as they have several other budget-related issues to work through first.
The first hire on Rice's staff was Hutson, who left his post as an assistant with San Diego State to become the Rebels' associate head coach. With the Aztecs, he served as the recruiting coordinator and defensive guru under Steve Fisher.
Schroyer was just hired last week, returning to his assistant coaching roots after being let go as the head coach at Wyoming in the middle of his fourth season at the helm back on Feb. 8. He also has a strong defensive background from his days as an assistant at Fresno State, BYU and Wyoming. Schroyer has East Coast recruiting ties that could widen the Rebels' recruiting net.
All that remains for Rice to decide upon in terms of personnel is who he will hire as the program's director of basketball operations, which he said likely won't happen until next week.
Three names, among many others, floating around for that gig are former UNLV staffers Jay Spoonhour, Mike Peck and Bill Wuczynski, who all worked with Rice during his 11-year run as a Rebels assistant.
Spoonhour was a UNLV assistant from 2001-04 and was the Rebels' interim head coach for the final 10 games of the 2003-04 season. He's currently the head coach at Moberly (Mo.) Community college. Peck, a former UNLV video coordinator, is now the head coach at Findlay Prep in the Henderson foothills, leading the Pilots to back-to-back ESPN Rise National High School Invitational titles in 2009 and 2010. Wuczynski was both an assistant coach and director of basketball operations during his five-year run at his alma mater in the late 1990s, and he just finished his third season as an assistant coach at TCU.
"It's a really important hire," Rice said of his final opening. "Not just for our staff, but for our players, as well."