The hectic search for the next coach of the UNLV Rebels men's basketball team has come to an end, as Chris Beard has been named the program's next head coach.
Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun passed along the program's release confirming the hire:
UNLV makes it official. The statement quotes from AD Tina Kunzer-Murphy and President Len Jessup: pic.twitter.com/jUjhaYqGWd— Taylor Bern (@TaylorBern) March 28, 2016
Beard was the head coach of the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans this year, his first as a Division I head coach. He led the Trojans to a 30-5 record and a spot in the NCAA tournament, where they defeated the Purdue Boilermakers as a No. 12 seed.
UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy addressed the hire in a statement:
In Chris Beard, we have selected a head coach who understands exactly what it takes to transform a program. His coaching philosophy has been heavily shaped by legends such as Bobby Knight and Bill Self. He is committed to the academic, athletic and social development of his student-athletes, and he believes in toughness and effort.
The road to finding a new head coach was a bumpy one for UNLV.
After the team fired former head coach Dave Rice, assistant coach Todd Simon took the helm, and the Rebels went 9-8 before losing in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament.
Simon, along with fellow assistants Stacey Augmon and Ryan Miller, interviewed for the position March 15, according to Anderson. While Augmon and Miller gained no traction, Southern Utah named Simon its head coach Tuesday.
The day prior, Anderson reported UNLV received permission to interview Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin, and Goodman reported UNLV and Cronin were "headed in the direction of a marriage" after an interview Wednesday. After another meeting with Kunzer-Murphy on Thursday, Cronin returned to Cincinnati without a deal.
Cronin decided to remain at Cincinnati on Friday, but Kunzer-Murphy told ESPN 1100 in Las Vegas that the two sides had a deal in place:
According to TKM: Cronin verbally agreed to a contract but never heard back from him, upon returning to Cinci— ESPN 1100/100.9 FM (@ESPNLasVegas) March 25, 2016
Afterward, UNLV moved quickly to interview New Mexico State head coach Marvin Menzies, along with Beard, according to Anderson. Anderson also reported Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett was in the running but turned down a $1.5 million offer.
Menzies interviewed for the position Saturday but accepted a contract extension with New Mexico State late Sunday evening, per Anderson. Shortly thereafter, Anderson reported Beard had agreed to take the UNLV job. Beard's journey as a coach will come full circle, per ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello:
Five years ago, Chris Beard was the head coach of the South Carolina Warriors, a semi-pro ABA team. He's now close to becoming UNLV's coach.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 28, 2016
Beard's contract will be brought up in discussion at a later meeting by the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents. Beard's four-year contract he signed at Little Rock in 2015 was for a base salary of $230,000 a year.
Once Beard's hiring becomes official, he will take over a program that faces much uncertainty heading into next year.
The Rebels have already lost sophomore wing Dwayne Morgan to transfer, as he's heading back to his home state of Maryland to be close to his ill mother. UNLV freshman center Stephen Zimmerman will put his name into the NBA draft in the summer, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, and chances remain high that sophomore guard Patrick McCaw will follow suit and go pro.
UNLV could have a complete roster overhaul next year; however, the team is putting its faith in Beard and seems set on making him its coach of the future.
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