Friday, April 1, 2011 | 8:45 p.m.
- Lon Kruger changes course, accepts head coaching position at Oklahoma
- UNLV players, recruits react to news of Kruger's departure
- Brewer: Kruger leaving for Oklahoma isn't all that bad
- Jerry Tarkanian: Oklahoma's athletic department has deep pockets
- A look at Lon Kruger's coaching history at UNLV
- The coaches who have led the Rebels through the decades
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.