April 4, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVEPaulGutierrez
Former Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus is a leading candidate to succeed Lon Kruger for the head coaching job at UNLV.
Theus, 53, and currently an NBA assistant for the Minnesota Timberwolves has long called the UNLV gig his "dream job," having played for the Runnin' Rebels under Jerry Tarkanian from 1975 to '78 and starring on UNLV's first Final Four team, in 1977. He is in the school's athletic hall of fame and had his jersey retired in 1997.
"I have been contacted by the university and I think the process is moving along," Theus told CSN California by phone Monday evening. "I think (UNLV Athletic Director) Jim Livengood wants the process to go pretty quickly.
"I had no Plan B when I started to coach. Coaching the Runnin' Rebels is the only job I ever wanted."
The other purported leading candidate to replace Kruger, who announced Friday he was leaving UNLV for Oklahoma after seven seasons and four NCAA tournament appearances, is another former Rebels player in Dave Rice, the associate head coach at BYU who ran the Cougars' high-powered offense with national player of the year Jimmer Fredette.
Rice, 42, played on UNLV's national championship team of 1990 as well as the Final Four team of 1991. He was a Rhodes Scholar candidate at UNLV.
"I love my alma mater and have great respect for the tradition of the program," Rice told CSN California in an email. "I am excited to be a candidate for the job."
Rice had previously been recently linked to openings at Wyoming and Bradley. Theus has been mentioned at Fresno State.
As far as Tarkanian is concerned, either would be a good choice.
"Dave's been around some people who are good basketball people," Tarkanian told the Las Vegas Sun. "Reggie took New Mexico State to the NCAA tournament in his second year, and I thought (he) did a great job with the Sacramento Kings - I was shocked when he got fired there.
"First, they're UNLV guys. They know the system, know the people, know a lot about the program."
Other names being bandied about in the Las Vegas media include another former UNLV star in Larry Johnson, St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap and former IndianaTexas Tech coach Bobby Knight.
The search, though, appears to be focusing on Rice and Theus. Rice seems to have a jumpstart in that he has already been an assistant at UNLV for 11 years, is familiar with the Mountain West Conference and already met with Livengood, at the Final Four in Houston this past weekend.
Friendly factions are forming in Las Vegas. Rice would seem to be the safe hire, what with his connection to UNLV's immediate past and a still-pumping local recruiting lifeline, while Theus represents a celebrity Wow-factor not seen on Gucci Row since Tarkanian's halcyon days in Sin City that translates nationally.
Theus began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Division-II Cal State Los Angeles. His first head coaching job came with the ABA's Las Vegas Slam and then he worked summer-league games for the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets.
Many initially questioned his desire to pay coaching dues -- he is one of just seven players in NBA history to have at least 19,000 points and 6,000 assists and was a TV star and, later, a basketball broadcast analyst -- before Rick Pitino hired him as an assistant in Louisville. After two years as the Cardinals' lead recruiter -- he was rated among the top 25 recruiters nationally -- Theus landed the head job at New Mexico State in 2005.
In two years, Theus took the Aggies from six victories the season before he arrived to a 25-9 mark, Western Athletic Conference tournament title and their first NCAA tourney appearance since 1999.
Theus rode the wave and was hired by the Maloofs as Kings coach in 2007. He was a combined 44-62 before being unceremoniously fired on Dec. 15, 2008. He has spent the past two NBA seasons on Kurt Rambis' staff in Minnesota.
In a wide-ranging interview at his New Mexico State office in 2007, Theus said there were only two reasons he'd leave Las Cruces -- for a head job at either UNLV or in the NBA. A few months later, the Kings hired him.
"I don't think I've ever kept it a secret that UNLV's always been my dream job," Theus said at the time. "I started coaching with one thing in mind and that was to one day coach at UNLV, my alma mater.
"I've said before I would sky-dive without a parachute to be there. I'd sleep in the back room in the janitor's office if I had to."
Instead, now he has to interview for the job.
April 4, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVEPaulGutierrez