Associated Press / FILE PHOTO
Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Kris Cinkovich would take his football teams at Las Vegas High to camp each summer at Utah State, knowing they would be in good hands.
Bobby Petrino, his former teammate from Carroll College in Montana in the early 1980s, was an assistant coach at Utah State, and Cinkovich's offensive schemes resembled those of Petrino.
Using several of Petrino's philosophies, Cinkovich transformed Las Vegas from one of the valley's mediocre programs into a powerhouse. He left after nine seasons and one state championship in 2003 to coach the receivers at UNLV.
After six years with Rebels, he was fired last month along with all of the assistants on Mike Sanford's staff. It didn't take long for him to find a new home.
Cinkovich was hired Wednesday to coach the receivers on Petrino's staff at Arkansas. He left Las Vegas early Wednesday morning and already has started in his new post.
"I was fortunate to land on my feet," Cinkovich said.
Cinkovich and Petrino each worked as graduate assistants at Carroll College and have remained close throughout the years. Cinkovich would visit Petrino, who spent time as head coach at Louisville and with the Atlanta Falcons, annually to study coaching tactics.
"He's had quite a bit of success everywhere he's been," Cinkovich said.
Cinkovich also enjoyed success while working with UNLV's receivers.
Casey Flair broke the school's all-time receptions mark in 2007, but was quickly passed by Ryan Wolfe — arguably the most productive receiver in school history with 282 receptions, 12th all-time in NCAA history.
"The record of success Kris has had with wide receivers speaks for itself," Petrino said in a release.
Cinkovich is also respected locally, especially with his peers on the high school ranks.
He went 79-24 at Las Vegas and guided the Wildcats to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. The state title in 2001 was the school's first since the 1950s.
"He definitely put this program in place," said Chris Faircloth, Las Vegas High's coach since Cinkovich left for UNLV. "He was just an extremely organized guy who was very focused and knew what he wanted to get done."
Cinkovich recruited Southern Nevada during his tenure with UNLV and is credited with giving several locals a chance to contribute at the next level. There were nearly 20 who graduated from Las Vegas high schools on this year's roster.
He said he would continue to keep an eye on the local scene while at Arkansas and hopes to continue recruiting the area.
After coaching in Las Vegas for 17 years, saying goodbye was hard. His wife, Joanie, is a longtime teacher at Basic High in Henderson and will finish the school year before leaving for Arkansas.
"My wife and I have made so many great friends over the years," Cinkovich said. "We have become very fond of Las Vegas and the people here. That part of it is going to be hard."
Cinkovich is not the lone coach who was on staff at UNLV last year to find work.
Sanford was hired as the offensive coordinator at Louisville, while former UNLV offensive coordinator Todd Berry was hired as head coach at Louisiana-Monroe.
Also, DeAndre Smith was hired to coach the running backs at Illinois and defensive line coach Andre Patterson was offered the defensive coordinator position at UTEP.
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].