Friday, April 15, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
- Dave Rice pays respect to Tarkanian, other UNLV legends during introduction
- Dad of top recruit Shabazz Muhammad: ‘Without a doubt, UNLV will be right there’
- Dave Rice, once a teacher in sweats, has grown to a coach in a suit
- Where I Stand: Basketball has been good to Las Vegas
- Dave Rice already familiar with brother’s prep program at Gorman
- Tarkanian: Dave Rice is a hard worker who deserves support
- Dave Rice learned his craft while part of UNLV’s legendary teams
- Dave Rice to be named UNLV’s next men’s basketball head coach
- Former BYU players recall Dave Rice’s impact, believe he’s earned shot at dream job
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer talk about the excitement surrounding the hiring of Dave Rice as the UNLV basketball coach. Rice, a reserve on the 1990 national championship team, will look to bring the program back to its ways of playing run-and-gun basketball.
In most professions these days, titles carry a lot of weight.
Coaching is one of them, and the opportunity to become an associate head coach is what ultimately tipped the scales for Justin Hutson.
It helped lure him to the desert, where, this week, he officially became the first member of newly-hired UNLV coach Dave Rice's staff.
Hutson, 39, spent the last five seasons helping turn San Diego State into the national power it officially became last season in a storybook 34-3 campaign that ended with the program's first Sweet Sixteen berth. He headed up the Aztecs' recruiting efforts, lured several of their top players to campus and was also the defensive coordinator of a team that held opponents to 39.6 percent shooting and 59.2 points per game in 2010-11.
"It's very hard to leave the relationships that I've built, that I've had, starting with the players — they're dear to me," Hutson said. "They all understood that it was something I had to do."
It was the right move for several reasons.
There was certainly not going to be a huge talent drop-off at SDSU in the coming years, but Hutson saw a roster and situation poised for similar potential success waiting in Las Vegas.
Financially, the move was a no-brainer. He made $95,000 on Steve Fisher's staff last season, and his one-year contract at UNLV will pay him $175,000 in 2011-12, though San Diego State had a raise offer on the table for Hutson that would have driven his salary up into the neighborhood of $150,000.
The title of associate head coach, though, was the kicker, getting Hutson one step closer to realizing his dream of one day taking over a program as a head coach. Rice himself spent the last three season's as BYU's associate head coach.
"Absolutely, that is a long-term goal, but the short-term goal was to help Dave," he said.
Hutson and Rice have never worked together, but as two of the more tireless recruiters among Mountain West Conference assistants over the past few seasons, they'd gotten to know each other not just by coaching against each other, but chatting often in high school gyms while out on the trail.
The two working together on a daily basis lays the foundation for what will be looked at from the outside as a young, energetic and hungry staff. Hutson will be on the road recruiting again already by Friday, and will be in the UNLV offices on Monday. The rest of the staff might not take much longer to get into place.
"I hope I have that young and hard-working image — I will take that," he said with a laugh. "I'm gonna work hard.
"Just to be able to work with Dave Rice, that's an elite program, and a chance to move up a little in the business. It's a storied program, a lot of tradition. It's something I'm looking forward to doing and I'm blessed."
He's taken full advantage of every opportunity given to him in the profession to this point, and there's no reason to believe Hutson won't do the same at UNLV.
Hutson grew up playing for his father, Mark, at Bakersfield High, then went on to help claim back-to-back NCAA Division-II titles as a point guard at Cal State Bakersfield.
"I was a coach's son — I understood the game, and knew that it was not about me," he said.
Hutson began coaching as an assistant at CSU Bakersfield from 1999-2000, then took over as the head coach at Bakersfield High. In four seasons, he led them to a CIF Central Section title and four playoff appearances. That was followed by an assistant stint at Cal Poly, then his post at San Diego State.
Now, the next step.
"I'm just going to do whatever (Rice) asks me to do," he said. "I think UNLV has a lot of good players coming back. That's a huge advantage for our staff coming in. They've already had success, coach Kruger had built that program, and what he cultivated over the last seven years, it was good. It's our job to build on that."
Dantley Walker still set to become a Rebel in 2013
Lincoln County super-scorer Dantley Walker knew even in the wake of Lon Kruger's departure from UNLV that he still wanted to be a Rebel. But whether the new coaching staff still wanted him was another story.
When Dave Rice got the job, Walker knew he'd likely be OK, and it was set in stone on Wednesday night, when the incoming UNLV coach called Walker and told him his scholarship offer was still valid.
"I knew that if Dave Rice got the job, because he recruited me at BYU and stuff, we'd have a better chance," he said. "I'm just glad he got the job.
"I figured he would call at some point. He had barely gotten the job, and we had to give him time to settle in, but yeah, I was a little nervous."
Rice was in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday for BYU's season-ending banquet, then cleaned out his office for good on Thursday. Walker, who originally committed to UNLV in February, was flirting with the idea of visiting Utah State this weekend if UNLV's offer was dropped, but now has no plans of heading to Logan.
Walker, who has drawn comparisons to Rice's prized pupil at BYU, Jimmer Fredette, averaged 36.2 points and 10.4 assists this season as a senior while earning first team Parade All-American honors. He'll serve a two-year Mormon mission and join UNLV for the 2013-14 season.
Bryce Jones update
There are no new developments in UNLV's recruitment of 6-foot-5 USC transfer Bryce Jones on either side.
It still appears that the Rebels are very interested despite the change in regimes, and Jones still considers UNLV one of his three options in the search for a new hardwood home.
Jones hasn't heard yet from Dave Rice, but said his parents have, and he expects to by the end of the weekend.
"I want to get to know the new coach and have a relationship with him," Jones said. "I'm absolutely interested."
Jones, who had a hot start this season as a freshman for the Trojans before a dramatic dip in playing time led to his departure, visited UNLV over the first weekend of April and was hosted by former high school teammate and Rebels sophomore guard Justin Hawkins. He visited San Diego State last weekend, and that's where the potential twist comes in.
The lead recruiter on Jones at SDSU was Justin Hutson.
"He was the person who was recruiting me there, that's who called me," he said. "He's cool, easy to relate to, easy to get along with. He knows basketball very well. I didn't know (he was leaving). It kind of did surprise me."
Still, Jones said that Hutson's departure didn't necessarily diminish SDSU's shot at him or significantly help UNLV's. He's waiting until his third and final visit — next weekend to Gonzaga — is completed before sitting down and hammering that all out.
Currently, UNLV has one open scholarship heading into the 2011-12 season.