Saturday, April 16, 2016 | 2 a.m.
The past three months have forced officials to face the ugly truth: UNLV isn’t all that.
When it took more than two hours of debate last week for decision-makers to approve a less than a $1 million annual contract for the Rebels basketball coach, it again confirmed that once-storied UNLV isn’t ready to play in the big-boy pool. That money is nothing in comparison to the multi-million, multi-year deals universities UNLV claims it wants to compete alongside regularly shell out.
Tubby Smith got $15 million over five years from Memphis this week to put UNLV back on the market for a coach. Smith left Texas Tech to open the door for Chris Beard, who was officially on the job seven days at UNLV, to bolt for a better situation. Seven days.
Yet, few Rebel supporters fault Beard for leaving and he’s not close to reaching Rollie Massimino status on the hate-meter. That’s because Rebel Nation realizes the program it supports is highly flawed.
They also realize Beard spent 10 years as a Texas Tech assistant coach and his daughters live nearby to make the move a no-brainer. But a deeper look at the move reveals something Rebels officials won’t like: Texas Tech is in a better league, has unlimited resources and more roster pieces to compete immediately. UNLV, after all, has just three players.
Less than 24 hours after Smith took the Memphis job, Texas Tech had its coach. When a big-time program with deep pockets identifies the coach it wants, it’s not long before they have their man. And this is Lubbock, Texas, where you don’t want to live unless you enjoy the smell of cow waste and want to drive five hours to the nearest real city.
UNLV is the embarrassment of college basketball. When UNLV fired Dave Rice in early January, it had a two-month start on identifying and attracting the coach it desired. Boosters were reportedly willing to kick-in more than $1 million annually to sweeten a deal for Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, but he passed, too. Cronin, like Beard, had a daughter he couldn’t live far apart from.
Memo to UNLV officials: Find a coach whose children are willing move to Las Vegas. And I’m not being humorous. When evaluating whether or not the next coach — the Rebels’ fourth in 2016 — is a good fit, also look at his circumstance. If Beard was constantly making trips back to Texas to see his family, then his intention would be to eventually relocate there. It could have happened after seven days or months.
That’s the reality of the current state of UNLV. This is a stepping-stone job. Come to UNLV, win a few games and get a better job. We are no better than Arkansas-Little Rock, where Beard went 30-5 and won a NCAA Tournament game last season.
While Beard and Cronin had strengths, they lacked one requirement needed moving forward: Neither were Rebels.
The right person for this job is someone who understands the UNLV program and its history. It’s for someone who considers it a destination job and has no intentions of winning games simply to get another contract.
Give me Stacey Augmon. Give me Ryan Miller. Give me Dave Rice again. The next hire needs to be the right hire because UNLV can’t afford to make another mistake, both financially and with its already-damaged reputation.