Joe Santoro: Will Eric Musselman stay with the Nevada Wolf Back? | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Will Eric Musselman stay with the Nevada Wolf Back?

Joe Santoro
Nevada coach Eric Musselman yells instructions during the first round game against Florida in the NCAA Tournament, in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 21.
Nati Harnik/AP | AP

It has now become an annual rite of spring at the University of Nevada. The Eric Musselman coaching carousel. Will Muss go? Will Muss stay? Is Muss in Reno today? What does wife Danyelle say? Whose private jet has taken Muss where on another whirlwind 24-hour trip? College basketball has simply become a big-money grab for coaches every March and April. The coaches lure the fans in during the season with clichés about loyalty, support and family atmosphere and when the season is over they look for their next job. And the fans go along with it as long as the coach wins. College basketball is simply a marriage of convenience. It’s just about winning, selling tickets, luring pampered recruits and getting that next big contract. How heartwarming.

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Musselman, according to reports, interviewed at Arkansas earlier this week. There have been no reports he was actually offered the job because, apparently, Arkansas also wants to interview Texas Tech’s Chris Beard, whose Red Raiders are in the Final Four this weekend. Beard, if you remember, lasted all of a week as UNLV’s head coach a couple of years ago before jumping to Texas Tech. You can bet if Beard does go to Arkansas (not likely because, well, it’s Arkansas) Musselman’s name will be attached to the Texas Tech opening. If TCU’s Jamie Dixon is hired at UCLA, as is the rumor, Musselman will likely be attached to the TCU job. Minnesota coach Richard Pitino is also connected to some of these jobs and if he leaves the Land of 10,000 Lakes, well, a Musselman heading back to Minnesota (see father Bill in the early 1970s) will be an actual heartwarming story. It just never stops.

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The school Musselman should go to, though, doesn’t seem to even want to talk to him. Musselman and his photo op family would be perfect for Los Angeles. He would be perfect for UCLA. Heck, he’d be perfect for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. He’d win in the Pac-12. He won in the Pac-12 this year, beating Arizona State, Utah and USC. The Los Angeles media would fall in love with him. If some television studio made a sitcom about a UCLA basketball coach and his fun-loving family they would cast the Musselmans. So why isn’t UCLA after him? Maybe it’s the same reason (the reason that nobody talks about) why Musselman had to come to Reno in the first place after spending three or four years working in TV and radio and then taking jobs in Venezuela, China and the Dominican Republic before reinventing himself as a college assistant for three years. Or maybe UCLA has forgotten how to hire a legitimate coach.

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Musselman is coming off his worst season at Nevada. Yes, a 29-5 record after a season of being ranked in the Top 25 all season long, is his worst season at Nevada. This is the first season that has ended in disappointment. This is the first season that doesn’t promise even more success the following year. This is the first season when Musselman’s Wolf Pack played their worst basketball at the end of the year. This is the first season you can make a strong argument the team underachieved. This is the first season when it appeared the players were running the team and not the other way around. But don’t be surprised if the next announcement you hear is Musselman will be getting yet another raise out of Nevada. A raise is why Musselman interviews at other schools. A raise is why all of his national media friends attach his name to every job opening. As Musselman always says, everything you do should be done for a reason.

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The most shocking thing about the end of the Wolf Pack’s season is not they lost two games in a row in the Mountain West and NCAA tournament to inferior (San Diego State, Florida) teams. It’s the players, for some mystery reason, seemed to sabotage the season. There have been a lot of ugly rumors attached to the end of the Pack season. They’re rumors we can’t repeat here. But we’ll tell you these rumors have been like an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians with Kim, Khloe, Kris, Kourtney, Kylie, Caleb, Cody and Caroline. It seems Stadium totally missed the boat with its obviously fabricated and fantasy Running with the Pack show this year. Real Hoopsters of Reno might have had more truth to it. Nobody outside the team’s inner circle is saying what actually happened but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the incident(s) obviously spilled over onto the court and ruined this season. And that, unfortunately, cheated the university and its supportive and loyal fan base that truly did fall in love with this team.

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Why would a team of 23-year-old fifth-year seniors allow anything off the court to ruin the greatest basketball season of their lives? Did egos destroy this team? Or was it simply stupidity and the acts of immature, pampered players? Could Musselman have prevented it? Could he have handled it differently? Did he see it coming? Did he create an atmosphere around the team that led to what happened? These are all legitimate questions that likely will never be answered because, well, nobody will likely ever admit anything actually happened. But the only other possible scenario to the end of the Pack season is none of the rumors are even remotely true, it was simply a case of horrible coaching and selfish playing. That last scenario, that it was merely poor coaching, leadership, preparation and player performance, is the most unbelievable rumor of all.