Rice hired as Wolf Pack assistant coach | NevadaAppeal.com

Rice hired as Wolf Pack assistant coach

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The bizarre soap opera that is the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball coaching situation continued this week with the hiring of former UNLV head coach Dave Rice. Rice is the third new assistant to join head coach Eric Musselman’s staff since the Pack’s 24-14 season ended a month ago, joining Ronald Dupree and the controversial Yann Hufnagel, who left California with a sexual harassment scandal attacked to his resume. While Rice is obviously qualified to be an assistant, the hiring for the Wolf Pack is a bit awkward. Why bring a guy into your program who is so closely associated with your top rival? Nobody in northern Nevada wants to be reminded of anything associated with UNLV ever. Wolf Pack fans are always going to look at Rice and immediately think UNLV. Rice is also a guy who once lost three consecutive games to David Carter which, in most Pack fans’ minds, is sort of like losing a Super Bowl to Marv Levy.

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After bringing Hufnagel aboard, for some ridiculous reason known only to Musselman, president Marc Johnson and athletic director Doug Knuth, you would think the Pack would have wanted the next new assistant to quietly slip into town without anyone noticing. But, no. They go and bring in a high-profile UNLV guy. But, then again, why would Musselman, Knuth and even Johnson know what that means to Wolf Pack fans? They really have no clue because they are not really Nevada guys. They don’t fully understand the deep hatred for UNLV that flows in the veins of Pack fans. Hating UNLV and all things Las Vegas is the single biggest reason for being a Wolf Pack fan.

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Odds are Rice, like all Musselman top assistants, will leave after just one year, so it’s not really that big of a deal. Pack fans can tolerate even a UNLV spy for one year if he just sits quietly at the end of the bench and merely consoles Pack players after Musselman yells at them. But here’s a dark and frightening thought, Wolf Pack fans. What if Rice becomes the Wolf Pack’s next head coach? It’s not that big of a stretch to imagine Musselman winning 25-plus games, a Mountain West title and a NCAA tournament berth year. He will then more than likely jump at the first offer he receives from a big-time conference and leave the Pack head coaching office empty. Rice will then be the most qualified candidate for the job unless, of course, Trent Johnson or Mark Fox want to come back home.

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Johnson and Fox, though, have one gigantic negative attached to their resume. They have strong Wolf Pack ties. The current brain trust (Knuth and Johnson), it seems, would rather hire a coach with strong UNLV ties or someone with a sexual harassment scandal rather than someone with a Wolf Pack history. You can be a former member of the enemy or bring an unfortunate national spotlight on the university. That’s no big deal. You got the job. But have the word Wolf Pack somewhere on your resume? Thanks but no thanks and good luck with your job search.

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If the Portland Trail Blazers are the Golden State Warriors’ next playoff opponent the next two weeks could become very interesting. The Blazers with Damian Lillard might make the Warriors, who will be missing Stephen Curry, sweat for at least a few days. The Warriors won three-of-four against the Blazers in the regular season but Lillard was arguably the best player on the floor in three of those games. He averaged 36.5 points a game against Golden State this year, including one game of 51 points and another of 40. Lillard is also from Oakland so you know he’ll be motivated, especially with Curry sitting on the bench. Finally, something to watch in these NBA playoffs.

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When your team sets a NBA record with 73 victories the head coach should be named Coach of the Year. But when that coach is only on the bench for 39 games, well, you might have to re-think your vote. Steve Kerr won the NBA’s top coaching honor despite the fact that he coached less than half his team’s games. His replacement, Luke Walton, actually coached more games and had a better record (39-4 to Kerr’s 34-5). Walton’s Warriors even started 24-0. But Kerr won the award and Walton finished tied for eighth. The NBA should have put both Kerr’s and Walton’s name on that trophy.

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The Oakland Raiders, it seems, are serious about moving to Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis, who said recently that he would like to turn the Silver State into the Silver and Black State, said Thursday that he wants to move to Las Vegas. It would take as many as three years to build the $1.4 billion stadium so don’t expect the NFL to come to Nevada before 2018 or, more likely, 2019. But it could happen and seems that it will happen. Gambling, obviously, is the biggest road block to putting a NFL team in Nevada but that is a silly and naïve notion. You don’t have to put a team in Nevada in order to fix a game or pay off players. A NFL team in Nevada, even if it is Las Vegas, would be a tremendous boost to the entire state. The whole state should get behind the idea and make it happen.

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Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves, A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros and Bryan Price of the Cincinnati Reds are the favorites to become the first Major League Baseball manager fired this season. The Braves and Reds are trying to lose but that never prevented a manager from being fired. The Astros, though, think they can get to the World Series this year and Hinch, who was always a strange choice, is vastly underachieving so far. The Astros are too talented to keep losing at their current rate so look for Price or Gonzalez to get chopped before the All Star break.