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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
- Livengood returns to Las Vegas today; coaching search hitting home stretch
- Lon Kruger says he doesn’t see Oklahoma as a rebuilding project
- Notebook: UNLV AD Jim Livengood’s coaching search heats up in Houston
- 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
- So, who's the odds-on favorite for Kruger's job?
- A look at Lon Kruger's coaching history at UNLV
- The coaches who have led the Rebels through the decades
However, the athletic department on Tuesday night sent out a press release, setting a firm group of four candidates considered to be finalists.
"Over the last several days, we have been involved in an exhaustive and thorough search to find the best person for our vacant men's basketball head coaching position," UNLV Athletic Director Jim Livengood said in the release. "The list has been narrowed to four outstanding candidates and I'm looking forward to continuing the interview process. We are looking forward to naming our new head coach very soon."
Rice, who is currently BYU's associate head coach, and Theus, a Minnesota Timberwolves assistant, were considered front-runners before former coach Lon Kruger's departure for the same job at Oklahoma last Friday was even made official.
Sources have consistently reiterated to the Sun this week that Rice, who played on UNLV's back-to-back Final Four teams in 1990 and 1991 and was an 11-year Rebels assistant coach, is the guy to beat. He met with Livengood over the weekend in Houston at the Final Four and will visit the UNLV campus on Wednesday for a formal interview.
Theus, who starred at UNLV in Jerry Tarkanian's early days in the 1970s, will likely be in town on Thursday for a similar interview.
There is still a very strong possibility that the coaching search will come to a close by week's end, but the official addition of Dunlap and Kent into the final mix adds a bit of late intrigue.
Dunlap's name surfaced early in connection with the job. He's considered one of the hottest names in the assistant coaching ranks and is known as a defensive guru who is bound to take over a program of his own in the near future. He was brought to Arizona as an associate head coach when Livengood was still running the show in Tucson in 2008. He has deep West Coast ties and is rumored to be wanting to move closer to those roots.
Kent's name has been tossed around for a few open jobs lately and last coached in 2009-10 at Oregon, where he was fired following a 16-16 season. He coached the Ducks for 13 seasons, reaching the Elite Eight twice, but he had an up-and-down career in Eugene overall, only achieving a winning record in Pac-10 play four times.
Both Dunlap and Kent also are expected in town for interviews by Friday afternoon.
For more on this story as it develops throughout the week, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels
Kruger brings two UNLV assistants with him to Oklahoma
On Tuesday, Kruger announced the first two members of his coaching staff at Oklahoma, and the names are familiar.
Steve Henson and Lew Hill, who both were with Kruger for seven seasons at UNLV, will join him in Norman. Henson, who played for Kruger at Kansas State in the late 1980s, has been with him as an aide at multiple stops in the last two decades.
Hill has recruiting ties throughout the state of Texas, which makes him a valuable addition at OU. His most valuable addition from the state in his time at UNLV was guard Wink Adams, a Houston native who finished UNLV career in 2009 as the program's sixth all-time leading scorer.
The two other members of Kruger's UNLV staff — assistant coach Greg Grensing and director of basketball operations Mike Shepherd — are also expected to accept positions at Oklahoma.