April 19, 2019 Currently: 72° | Complete forecast

Rebels’ coaching search gets underway

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Steve Marcus

UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois speaks at a news conference at the Mendenhall Center Friday, March 15, 2019. Reed-Francois discussed the firing of UNLV basketball head coach Marvin Menzies and the search for a new coach.

Three days removed from the firing of Marvin Menzies, UNLV has hit the ground running in search of its next basketball coach.

Athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois wasted no time casting her net, as she left Las Vegas over the weekend and is currently on the road vetting potential candidates, according to multiple sources.

That presents a different picture than the one that much of the fan base envisioned when Menzies was let go. The prevailing wisdom as recently as Friday was that Reed-Francois would not make a move on Menzies without having a preferred candidate lined up to replace him, but one source said no such backdoor deal was ever in place, and that Reed-Francois is now conducting a “legit search.”

The most prominent name rumored in the days leading up to Menzies’s firing was Thad Matta, a 51-year old who led Ohio State to two Final Four appearances at his last stop. Matta has a buyout clause in his Ohio State contract that stipulates he must continue to seek employment elsewhere in order for the Buckeyes to pay out the remainder of his deal, so it would be to Matta’s benefit to hear his name reported in job rumors.

A representative for Matta did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

According to sources, UNLV has enough pledged money from program boosters to pay the next coach between $1.7 million and $2.8 million annually. That aligns with Reed-Francois’s statement during Friday’s press conference, when she said she had secured enough funding to make the next Runnin’ Rebels head coach the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West and among the highest paid in the Group of 5 conferences.

Eric Musselman is currently the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West, as he earns a $1-million annual base salary from UNR. For reference, Matta reportedly turned down an offer from Georgia last offseason that would have paid him $16 million over five years.

Menzies was fired with two years left on his contract, and UNLV will be responsible for paying him the remaining $800,000 owed over the length of that deal.

While early speculation centered on proven head coaches like Matta and Rick Pitino, one source said Reed-Francois is also open to a younger, up-and-coming coach. Utah State won the Mountain West tournament on Saturday under first-year head coach Craig Smith, who was lured away from South Dakota with a 5-year, $3.5 million deal.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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