LAS VEGAS — Eric Musselman has Nevada relevant again in college basketball, and that was part of the vision he had when he took the Wolf Pack basketball job.
In two short years, he’s compiled a 52-20 record, and won a College Basketball Invitational title, a Mountain West regular-season title and a Mountain West postseason title.
Not bad for a new guy.
“It’s been very rewarding,” Musselman said following Nevada’s 79-71 win in the MW championship game over Colorado State. “If you look at my career and being at the top level of the NBA and making the decision to be an assistant coach in college.
“It was a humbling experience. But I had the support of my wife and sons, so I kind of re-invented myself in the college game, and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t even watch an NBA game on TV. It’s all college. And, it’s a totally different lifestyle.”
Musselman feels he’s probably more effective at the college level
“I feel like I’ve got … these guys are my kids, so to speak,” he said. “So you can have influence on people for the rest of their lives. It’s been a great career change for me.”
SPECIAL DAY FOR FENNER
D.J. Fenner has seen it all in the Nevada basketball program.
The 6-6 senior from Seattle suffered through a 9-win season as a sophomore, and he has now been part of 52 wins, including a CBI championship, a Mountain West regular-season title and postseason title since David Carter departed as head coach.
And now, he gets to go to the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t get any better than that.
“It’s extremely special,” Fenner said. “First of all, I want to thank God for this opportunity, and coach Muss to put us all in this situation is amazing.
“I remember being here I was crying because we lost and I didn’t know who my new head coach would be. Two years later I’m here and we won it. It’s absolutely amazing. I couldn’t be more thankful for my coaches and for my brothers.”
Teammate Cam Oliver was happy for his teammate.
“D.J. has been through it all,” Oliver said. “I’m happy for him. I’m proud of my brother.”
Fenner finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
GREAT DAY FOR RICE
Assistant coach Dave Rice, who was let go by UNLV in the middle of last season, got a big hand when he cut down a piece of the net after the game.
“It’s great for all of our assistant coaches,” Musselman said. “They all contribute. I can’t say enough about them and all the work they do, but it’s got to be special for Dave in this building, coming back to Vegas.
“And, anytime someone has sat in that head coaching chair, I think that when you look over and talk to somebody that’s been there and is a calming influence (it helps). His personality is not slightly, but drastically different than mine. So it’s a good combination.”
HALL ON A ROLL
Freshman Josh Hall has given Nevada positive minutes since coming back from his concussion, and Saturday he was at it again.
A day after scoring eight points against Fresno State, Hall scored 12 points and grabbed two rebounds in 26 minutes of work.
It was the first time Hall reached double figures since Dec. 21 when he scored 15 in the victory over Towson at the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas.
The 6-6 swingman said it’s been a special season. How many freshmen win a regular-season title, a conference championship and get to go to the NCAAs?
“It’s been a dream come true,” Hall said. “When coach recruited me, he said it was a family atmosphere; everybody together. He wanted us to believe in the process.
“I don’t mind being a freshman. Once the ball goes up, I just play basketball. I don’t feel any pressure.”
Hall’s progress has Musselman excited.
“That is one of the things we’re excited about is our young players that have come into the program as freshmen,” Musselman said. “And Josh’s development, incredible. He isn’t a guy we look to offensively, but the play of the game was his left-handed lay-up and one. I thought his contributions were incredible because we didn’t run a play for him and he scored 12 points.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Marcus Marshall set a MW finals record with 16 free-throw attempts en route to a 21-point effort … Nevada is now 20-0 when leading at the half … This is the first time a No. 1 seed has beaten a No. 2 seed in the championship game. Previously, the No. 1 seed was 0-7 against the No. 2 seed … This is the first time since 2013 the regular-season champ went onto win the post-season tournament … Oliver struggled offensively with four points, but he pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.