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April 19, 2019

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

UNLV leaders made the right choice with bold hire of Marvin Menzies

Marvin Menzies

Andres Leighton / AP

New Mexico State head coach Marvin Menzies watches from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against New Mexico on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Las Cruces, N.M.

Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy and President Len Jessup aren’t winning many popularity contests with the UNLV faithful these days. That’s what happens when bad decisions, and bad luck, have turned Las Vegas’ favorite team into a laughingstock.

Yet, they didn’t let public outcry influence their decision in naming Marvin Menzies as the Rebels’ basketball coach Saturday. For that bold decision, I give them credit. They did what they felt was best for the university.

If they'd been persuaded by the fans, we’d be talking about someone other than Menzies. Once word started to spread late Friday that officials were zeroing in on the 54-year-old coach formerly of New Mexico State, fans took to message boards and social media to show their disgust. Clearly, he wasn’t the first choice for most.

Here are some examples:

So, yes, hiring Menzies was a gutsy move, especially considering that the dislike for the choice should translate into more empty seats at the Thomas & Mack Center next season.

My dad, who hasn’t missed many home games since they were played at the Las Vegas Convention Center, explains it best: “They should play games next season at the Cox Pavilion. That would be half-empty, too.”

I don’t necessarily agree. The hire is intriguing because Menzies has the one trait other candidates lacked: the ability to recruit. In nine years at New Mexico State, he produced two Associated Press All-Americans. If he can persuade a teenager with better options to play in Las Cruces, N.M., he’ll have no problem recruiting to one of the greatest cities in the world.

He'd better. The natives have lost their patience with the poor decisions by UNLV officials. Starting with firing Dave Rice in January, or for some, not firing him after the 2014-15 season, to the mess this week with Chris Beard, it has been one poor result after another.

Beard’s seven-day tenure could be considered back luck. UNLV decision-makers never could have predicted the Texas Tech job would have opened. But, then again, there were plenty of signs — jumping job to job and a family living out of state — to indicate Beard was a short-timer.

Menzies, as crazy as it sounds, is a good fit because he has no better options. He spent almost a decade in the Western Athletic Conference competing against the likes of Seattle and Grand Canyon. He’ll embrace this opportunity on a higher level of the coaching food chain and be motivated to produce.

He worked under Lon Kruger, Rick Pitino and Steve Fisher before getting his own program. And that program was head-and-shoulders the best in the WAC. He led New Mexico State to a 198-111 record with five berths in the NCAA Tournament in nine seasons. It won the league tournament five times, including four straight seasons from 2012-15.

Bottom line, Menzies earned the right to be at UNLV. He might not be the coach fans wanted, but he could be the one to bring excitement back to Rebel basketball.

It was a bold decision, but after the troublesome past four months, it's a risk worth taking.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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