Santoro: Welcome, again, to Pack’s Coaching Transfer Portal

Nevada head coach Steve Alford, right, calls out to his players during the first half against Dayton on March 21.

Nevada head coach Steve Alford, right, calls out to his players during the first half against Dayton on March 21.
Isaac Hale | AP

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Sports Fodder:

Steve Alford, it seems, is on the short list of candidates being considered for the Oklahoma State Cowboys head coaching job.

And you thought blowing a 17-point second-half lead to Dayton last week was the end of the Pack misery, didn’t you?

There are social media posts declaring that Alford has already accepted the Big 12 job. Some are already complaining about Alford getting the job.

Yes, Nevada Wolf Pack, fans, the agony never stops. Welcome to the most stressful, troublesome, aggravating, hold-your-breath and keep-your-fingers-crossed time of every Wolf Pack season.

It’s Coach and Player Transfer Portal season, the time of year when your beloved basketball program always runs the risk of being gutted and decimated.

The player transfer portal, only a few years old, has already taken noteworthy players such as Darrion Williams, Will Baker, Desmond Cambridge, Grant Sherfield and Warren Washington from the Pack.

The unofficial coaching portal already has its claws into Alford and has already pilfered Trent Johnson, Mark Fox and Eric Musselman. That, in case you are keeping score, is every Pack coach that has gone to the NCAA Tournament this century except Alford.

But that was as of Tuesday morning. Dinnertime on Tuesday might be something totally different. Some social media posts are saying Alford might be already on his way to Oklahoma State.

Grand Canyon’s Bryce Drew and Colorado State’s Niko Medved, reportedly, are the other two finalists competing for the Cowboys job. The Tulsa World has already declared Alford the “perfect fit” for the Cowboys.

Medved and Colorado State beat Alford and the Pack in the Mountain West tournament and then won its first NCAA Tournament game before losing to Texas. Drew’s Antelopes beat St. Mary’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (and lost to Alabama in the second round) while Alford was blowing a 17-point lead.

Nobody, except maybe Mrs. Alford and long-time Alford assistant coach Craig Neal, knows if Alford is truly interested in Oklahoma State. Alford might just be forcing the Wolf Pack to give him more money and a contract extension.

He currently earns a little more than $1 million year at Nevada and still has five years remaining on his deal. Oklahoma State will pay at least $3 million a year.

That’s why it might be a good idea for the Pack to start negotiating with Alford if it hasn’t already. You can be sure those negotiations would have already started if Doug Knuth was still athletic director. We don’t know that about new A.D. Stephanie Rempe yet, though she did have the stomach to quickly fire football coach Ken Wilson last fall and quickly hire Jeff Choate.

There’s no question that as long as Alford is head coach the Pack will remain a competitive program. He has, after all, dealt with the dreaded transfer portal brilliantly despite have little more to offer players than his famous, name, face, resume and smile.

He has kept the Pack competitive and interesting and taken them to two NCAA Tournaments in five years. Yes, he typically melts down in the postseason but, hey, that’s better than melting down in January and February.

The university also needs Alford to be the face of its program when it opens its new arena in a few years. There’s no way they want to bring a struggling program with a no-name head coach to the parking lot of the Grand Sierra Resort and leave the new arena about as crowded on game night as a row of slot machines at 4 a.m. on a Wednesday night.

Nobody really wants to go to Oklahoma State. The Wolf Pack needs to take care of its famous, face, name, resume and smile.


What are the chances the Wolf Pack loses a significant roster piece in the transfer portal? As long as Alford is still coach, those chances are pretty slim since most of the players remaining on the roster seem attached to Alford’s hip.

The only significant players that might entertain the portal are freshmen Jazz Gardner, Amire Robinson and Tyler Rolison.

The 7-foot Gardner and 6-4 Robinson were buried on the bench last year and the 6-foot Rolison was the second or third option off the bench. If any of the three feel their roles won’t improve next year the transfer portal is a real option.

Other teams would quickly snatch up Gardner, a 7-footer who thinks he can shoot threes. Robinson might just go somewhere else he can play significant minutes. Rolison, too, showed enough this year to warrant more minutes next year, especially since point guards Kenan Blackshear and Hunter McIntosh will be off playing pro ball overseas somewhere. He’s small but he’s proven he’s not afraid of anything or anyone, but he also might be more suited to a sixth-man role and not a starting job.


The 63-60 loss to Dayton last week is still baffling. The 17-point lead (56-39 with seven-plus minutes to play) is the largest lead by far the Pack has ever wasted in an NCAA Tournament game it eventually lost.

The Pack is now 6-11 in the tournament and never had a lead at all in the second half before in nine of its first 10 losses. The only other time it led in the second half of a game it eventually lost was against Georgia Tech in 2004. Their biggest lead in that game was eight (30-22) with 4:34 to go in the first half and it was still 43-36 Wolf Pack with just under 18 minutes to play in the second half.

The loss to Dayton equals the fifth-largest blown lead by any team in NCAA Tournament history. How can Oklahoma State sell that to its fan base?

Alford is, without question, a quality coach. He’s won 683 games in his career and has gone to 13 NCAA Division I (three in Division III) tournaments. But the flip side is that he’s never gotten past the Sweet 16, though he’s gotten there four times. Former Pack coach Eric Musselman, by comparison, has already gotten to one Sweet 16 and two Elite Eights in five years at Arkansas.

Alford is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament and 2-5 in the Mountain West tournament since he came to Nevada.


Every Wolf Pack fan should be rooting for San Diego State to beat Connecticut on Thursday night.

The Aztecs went to the NCAA Tournament title game (losing to Connecticut) last year and the Mountain West got its most (six) bids to the tournament this year. Those two things are clearly connected.

Without the Aztecs making a long run in the tournament last year it is likely the Mountain West would have gotten no more than four invites this year. The Aztecs’ success in this year’s tournament could guarantee more success for the Mountain West come Selection Sunday next year and beyond, especially since there will be no more Pac-12 to represent the West.

Alford if he stays, could go to the NCAA Tournament every year at Nevada. He likely won’t be able to say the same at Oklahoma State.


San Diego State is saving the Mountain West’s reputation in the NCAA Tournament this year. The league is 4-5 in NCAA tournament games, a respectable record for a mid-major conference.

But the Aztecs are 2-0 and counting and everybody else (New Mexico, Nevada, Boise State, Colorado State and Utah State) was 2-5 combined.

Colorado State beat Virginia in the First Four and Utah State beat TCU in the round of 64. Utah State already lost its head coach (Danny Sprinkle) to Washington while Colorado State or Nevada might lose their coaches this week. The coaching transfer portal is brutal.


The Wolf Pack needs to dip into the portal this off season to fill a few player needs.

The Pack needs a center who can control the paint defensively and also give the team more than 15 foul-filled minutes a game (see K.J. Hymes last year).

Gardner has the potential to fill that need but it never hurts to have some depth in the paint. He also tends to wander around the 3-point line a bit too much.

The Pack also needs to find a full-time point guard with Blackshear and McIntosh running out of eligibility.

Rolison might be able to step into that role but he’s just six-feet tall and young and would struggle against more physical and experienced point guards. He might not be ready to play the 30-plus minutes a game and offer the physicality the Pack and Alford have gotten used to with the likes of Blackshear, Sherfield and Lindsey Drew in recent years.

The Pack also needs to find a big-time shooter (or two or three) with the loss of Jarod Lucas. Lucas was really the only reliable, consistent 3-point shooter on the roster last year. McIntosh was the second best. And now they are both gone. Alford is now the best 3-point shooter on the team.


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