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Dave Rice era ends, leaves mark with UNLV

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Dave Rice's time as coach at UNLV ended last night. However, he left his own mark on the Runnin' Rebel program, one that most Rebel fans should take as a positive.

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Five years under Dave Rice's leadership was sufficient for the powers that be at UNLV. UNLV and Rice parted ways less than 24 hours ago.  Rice's time as coach was a hopeful ride that always had Rebel fans looking forward to the next season, then the next, and the next... but Rice never was able to fully deliver on his promises to the hometown crowd in Sin City.

What he did deliver was talent.  His tenure in Vegas will be one labeled with "recruiter."  He also dealt off the court with his players well, avoiding NCAA infractions and ensuring that his seniors graduated (as well as his players were reprimanded properly for not meeting team standards).  In fact, he ran a clean, tight ship.

However, as became clearer just in the last year, Rice could have been accomplishing many of these very same things as an assistant coach rather than head coach.  And instead, his on-the-court product was a different story.  The ship was sinking.

Each year his team's overall record diminished even when bringing in bigger and better talent.  Yes, some of his players from UNLV made it to the NBA, but their time in Vegas did not leave fans with championship conference seasons or NCAA tourney victories (at times, even NCAA tourney appearances were hard for Rice to come by).

When UNLV fans look back to the Dave Rice era they will applaud his recruiting.  But, did he leave the program better off than his predecessor, Lon Kruger?  No.  Instead, he put higher level talent into it; this is something the next coach should be able to build off from.

Even though many Rebel fans may be cheering that Rice is out, they also must remember that this was a very rare move for the collegiate level.  This is a move that leaves their beloved team in a precarious situation, losing a coach, having an interim, and finding a way to right the ship as their overall record has faded over the last three weeks.

No one knows exactly what's next for UNLV.  Critics can ponder, but we may not know much for a while.  But, one thing is clear.  By ridding itself of Rice midseason, UNLV made a powerful, distinct message to the rest of the country: We are a school that takes basketball seriously and we want a winning program (right away).