Rice, Rice Baby: Was the UNLV Coaching Search over Before It Ever Began?

Mick AkersAnalyst IApril 8, 2011

Dave Rice, pictrued right, is the heavy favorite to take over UNLV's basketball team.
Dave Rice, pictrued right, is the heavy favorite to take over UNLV's basketball team.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As the UNLV Runnin' Rebel basketball search for a head coach draws to an end after all four of the official interviews being conducted, sources are saying that the coaching race was over before it ever had a chance to get off the ground.

According to The Gridlocks radio show on ESPN 1100 in Las Vegas, several sources have said that Dave Rice, BYU associate head coach and former Rebel player, has been the chosen one since the day after former head coach Lon Kruger abruptly resigned and took over a struggling Oklahoma Sooners team.

An official announcement could come as early has Sunday, with a press conference on Monday.

UNLV's athletic director, Jim Livengood, was in Houston for the Final Four last weekend where he had a meeting with Rice about the job. The sources the Gridlocks were speaking of said that he pretty much locked up the job right there and that the current interview process is just so UNLV follows proper procedure.

Reggie Theus, the other former Rebel and booster favorite to get the job, reportedly came into his interview with an attitude already feeling as if the job was off the market according to The Gridlocks.

Theus was turned down by Livengood once before when he interviewed for the Arizona Wildcat job back in 2008. At that time, Livengood was athletic director at Arizona, and the feeling is that he still has a grudge against Livengood from his previous interview and left this latest interview with Livengood frustrated.

Theus wasn't even contacted by Livengood until late Sunday night, a full 48 hours after Kruger announced he was leaving and over 24 hours after Livengood and Rice met in Houston.

The way the process has been carried out has reportedly angered many boosters. If Rice is hired, it will be despite former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian saying it would be a "joke" if Theus did not get the job.

Another tie between Rice and Livengood is apparent once one realizes that Livengood obtained his bachelors degree from BYU.

Though the two former UNLV players turned coaches have been the focal point of the search, former Arizona associate head coach and current St. John's assistant coach, Mike Dunlap, reportedly had a great interview and would be the clear-cut choice if Theus or Rice, with their ties to UNLV, weren't in the race, according to the Gridlock's sources.

Don't get me wrong, I have said time and again that I would be satisfied with UNLV choosing either Theus or Rice.

But if the process wasn't really for the purpose of seeing who the most qualified for the job, but instead, a decoy to show UNLV took the proper steps in choosing a new coach, this would raise serious red flags on something that should have Las Vegas buzzing for who is chosen, not how he was chosen.