Dave Rice replaces Lon Kruger at UNLV

Updated: April 11, 2011, 10:18 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

UNLV has reached back to its greatest era in hiring Dave Rice, a former Jerry Tarkanian player.

Rice, a BYU associate head coach, is the first former Tarkanian player to be hired by the Rebels since Tarkanian was forced out in the early 1990s.

Rice confirmed the hire to ESPN.com early Sunday before UNLV issued a press release on Rice's hiring and announced, pending board of regent approval, a news conference Monday.

[+] EnlargeDave Rice
AP Photo/Doug PizacDave Rice, far right, was a part of UNLV's glory years, playing on the Rebels' 1990 national title team.

Rice replaces Lon Kruger, who left to coach Oklahoma after leading the Rebels to four NCAA tournaments in seven seasons, including a Sweet 16 in 2007.

Rice was on the 1990 UNLV national champion team as well as the 1991 national semifinalist. He also worked under Tarkanian from 1991-92 in his final season and then 10 years from 1994 to 2004 under a number of head coaches that passed through UNLV in the turbulent post-Tark era.

Tarkanian had publicly endorsed the other UNLV finalist, his former player Reggie Theus from the 1970s, who had been a head coach at New Mexico State and with the Sacramento Kings. But UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood went with Rice instead of Theus, who is currently an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"I thought for sure they would hire Reggie," Tarkanian told ESPN.com on Sunday afternoon. "Dave is a great person. He's a very intelligent guy, a great person. But I think most of the town thought it was going to be Reggie.

"I'm happy that it was somebody that had ties to our program, Tarkanian said. "Dave's a good person, a really good person. Every time BYU would come here, [Rice] made a point to come here and visit with me."

Rollie Massimino followed Tarkanian from 1992-94 before a brief one-year stint by former Tarkanian assistant Tim Grgurich opened a revolving door of seven different men who coached at least 10 games over a 10-year span. One constant throughout that tumult was Rice who was retained as an assistant by each coach.

Rice eventually moved on to Utah State in 2004-05. Rice then joined BYU in 2005 and has been with the Cougars since, moving up to associate head coach in 2008.

Rice was instrumental in helping Dave Rose guide the Cougars to the top of the Mountain West and in recruiting consensus national player of the year winner Jimmer Fredette. Rice is well-versed in the Mountain West after working at UNLV and BYU and in the region with his stint at Utah State. He is well-respected among his coaching brethren and deemed in a similar light to Kruger -- not flashy and more of a tactician than a motivator.

UNLV has been open about the search throughout the process, announcing finalists for the position, including former Oregon coach Ernie Kent and St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap. In an era of search firms seeking secrecy and athletic directors being coy about private meetings and offers, UNLV has not hid from its choices or the status of the hiring process.

Andy Katz covers college basketball for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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