UNLV said in statement today that it will hire BYU assistant coach Dave Rice to replace Lon Kruger as the program’s head men’s basketball coach. Rice, who played on UNLV’s 1990 national championship team, has been an assistant for the Cougars for the last six years.
UNLV president Neal Smatresk shot down reports today that Larry Brown is a candidate to be the Rebels’ basketball coach. Brown, the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship, was fired as coach of the Charlotte Bobcats in December after a 9-19 start this season. SI.com and ESPN are reporting Brown has been in contact with UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood, who announced four finalists for the position Tuesday.
Adrian Wojnarowski: As @Sam Amick reports, Larry Brown is trying to get involved at UNLV. They won’t hire him. Schools should want a program, not a mercenary.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Smatresk said. “We just interviewed four people and I’m unaware that any names have been added to the list.”
Livengood has said publicly that he expects to choose between BYU associate head coach Dave Rice, former Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus (now a Minnesota Timberwolves assistant), St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap and former Oregon coach Ernie Kent — all of whom have interviewed for the position. Rice and Theus are widely considered the finalists, but the sources said Brown’s best bet at landing the position would come by way of the school’s boosters. With Livengood believed to be leaning toward Rice and school president Neal Smatresk said to be backing Theus, there are boosters who are intrigued by the idea of adding a coach whose pedigree dwarfs that duo. Sources said Kentucky coach John Calipari called Livengood on Brown’s behalf as well.
More than three months later, Brown, 70, is hoping against hope that his return takes place at UNLV. Two sources close to Brown said he has been in contact with Runnin’ Rebels athletic director Jim Livengood about the position and is expecting to hear back soon, although his chances appear slim unless the process continues to stall. When reached by phone, Brown confirmed the contact with UNLV but declined to comment further.
In December 2007, Johnson earned his Bachelor of Arts in social science studies from UNLV. He said his late mother, Dortha, always wanted him to return for his degree. “With no pro team here in Las Vegas, it was overwhelming actually. Everybody couldn’t take that,” he said. “You had to have a special mind to be in Vegas and be on top like that and get through. “I think I was more successful and I was more in tune with what was going on in college. In the NBA, it was more of a glamorous life. Everything was catered to you, and it’s like you really made it. “It’s the journey to get there, and UNLV was my journey.”
At the time, in early 1987, Johnson was angry, and his mother was heartbroken. A few years later, he realized he caught the lucky break of a lifetime. He realized it while leading the Rebels to the 1990 NCAA championship and emerging as the top player in college basketball. And even after 10 years in the NBA, his heart was still with UNLV. “It was the highlight of my career,” he said. “I didn’t think that at the time, because you’ve got all these great things ahead of you. I was drafted No. 1, and I thought I was going to the NBA to kill Michael Jordan and everybody. It didn’t happen.”