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UNLV basketball coaching search: Louisville's Rick Pitino interested in opening, per report

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According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Louisville head coach has interested in the UNLV opening.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The UNLV coaching search is just under a week old and there have been plenty of opinions and reports about who is interested in the coaching opening, but the biggest name to be attached is now Louisville's Rick Pitino.

Despite Pitino's name seeming like per fantasy, the Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that there is interest in the Louisville coach heading West, a place he has never coached outside of a three-year stint with Hawaii from 1974-76.

First and foremost, a source with connections to Pitino insists he is interested in the job, 15 years after his brief flirtation with Las Vegas. He went to Louisville in March 2001 and has not looked back€” until now.

The time might be right for Pitino, 63, to make a move. He has survived well-publicized scandals and fought to escape the shadow of Kentucky coach John Calipari. Pitino coached the Cardinals to an NCAA championship in 2013, adding to his national title with the Wildcats in 1996, so what more is left for him to achieve?

The alleged scandal revolves around paying for strippers and escorts to dance for and have intercourse with basketball recruits and players. Pitino has said on the record to not have been involved in this scandal but it was former Louisville director of basketball operations Andre McGee who allegedly was.

"If Pitino is interested, the money would be there."

While that scandal has not involved Pitino, that could be a reason to just maybe move on to a new location, but if he was not involved why leave after being just a few years removed from winning a national title in 2013.

If Pitino were to come to Las Vegas he would be king of the city as the UNLV team is the big time attraction for team sports in Nevada.

Plus, this would be a big time challenge for Pitinio, and if the 63-year-old head coach wants one last challenge just to show the college basketball world how good of a coach he is then getting UNLV back to the level of the late 1980s and earl 1990s would certainly achieve that goal.

The recruiting for UNLV is clearly in place under now former head coach Dave Rice, so the talent is in place and this would not be a rebuilding job in that area. Pitino himself is a great recruiter with having the Cardinal ranked in the top 10 nationally ranked classes from 2013-15.

This clearly seems like a pipe dream for UNLV to land Pitino. His contract makes this the longest of long shots. Rice made a base of $300,000 per  year and after other contributions his salary was approximately $700,000 per year.

Last summer, Pitino and Louisville agreed to a contract extension to keep him in town through 2025-26 and his salary for this year is $4.448 million and increases to $5.093 million in 2016-17 and remains above that $5 million mark for the duration of the contract.

UNLV has big donors but can the Rebels come up with over $5 million per year to lure Pitino away from the ACC? In all likelihood, UNLV might have to get closer to $6 million per year to convince Pitino to coach in the Mountain West.

There are reports that UNLV's next head coach will earn approximately $1 million. However, there are a few reasons to give at least some credit to this report.

"If Pitino is interested, the money would be there," a source close to UNLV told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Also, Pitino's son, Richard Pitino, is considered an up-and-coming coach but the 33-year-old coach is struggling at Minnesota with a 6-11 record and is 0-5 in Big Ten play so far. If his father comes to UNLV that could provide a landing spot for his son who could then in turn take over as the UNLV coach once Rick decides to retire. However, there have not been too many coach-in-waiting that have actually worked out.

UNLV is a program with history, great facilities with the Mendenahll Center and the recruiting in place to land a big-time head coach, but getting Pitino to leave Louisville for the Rebels seems like the longest of long shots.