It’s a tradition unlike any other for UNLV fans, as the program begins another coaching search with T.J. Otzelberger appeared to be on his way to Iowa State. This will be the fourth head coaching search for UNLV since 2011, that does not include the Chris Beard debacle in 2016, and the new head coach will be the 14 different head coach (including interims) since Jerry Tarkanian.
Nothing is official yet, but all reports point to Otzelberger leaving for Iowa State and UNLV has no time to waste to find its new head coach. I put together a list of five coaches that I think the program should seriously consider once the position opens:
Currently not a head coach and working with the Big Ten Network, Miles has experience coaching in the Mountain West at Colorado State. Miles took the Rams from a seven-win team in his first year all the way to the NCAA Tournament in his fifth year before he went to Nebraska. In his seven years with Nebraska, Miles went 116-114 and made the NCAA Tournament only once.
Miles’ name was brought up in the New Mexico opening, but ultimately the Lobos went with Richard Pitino. While Miles does not have the resume others have, he has experience being a head coach in the conference and in a power conference. He would be a good candidate to try and build some stability in the program and lay a foundation while Miles tries to prove he can still coach at the collegiate level.
Joe Pasternack (UC Santa Barbara)
In his four seasons with the Gauchos, Pasternack is 88-33 and has UC Santa Barbara in the NCAA Tournament this season. The Gauchos were a top-20 scoring defense this year allowing only 62.8 points per game. Pasternack just won a Big West title this season in Las Vegas, the site of the conference tournament. The time could be now for Pasternack to try and get a bigger job after his year this season.
Prior to UC Santa Barbara, Pasternack was at Arizona where he was an assistant for two seasons and the associate head coach for four. What could be a strike against Pasternack is he was at Arizona when some of the findings of the 2017-2018 corruption scandals came to light. There has not been any allegations against him, but some higher ups at UNLV might not want to touch someone who was at a school that was involved in that scandal.
Mike Rhoades (VCU)
A candidate whose name has not been thrown out is Rhoades. He has spent nine seasons with VCU, five as an assistant and the last four as the head coach. The Rams are back in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons. Rhoades worked with Shaka Smart as an assistant when VCU made its run to the Final Four.
This year the Rams were top-10 in KenPom defensive efficiency, averaging 89.6 points allowed per 100 possession. VCU was also in the top-10 in 2019 which the other time they went to the NCAA Tournament under Rhoades. The Rebels were ranked 210 in defensive efficiency this year, and Rhoades would certainly help UNLV be a better defensive team. Hiring Rhoades won’t be the flashiest hire, but he is a proven winner in a good conference and would instantly elevate UNLV.
Bob Richey (Furman)
Another name that has not gotten much attention is Richey at Furman. At 37 years old, Richey is one of the younger coaches on this list, but has been off to a solid start in his four seasons as a head coach. He has accumulated an 89-33 record in his four seasons with the Paladins, and had at least 23 wins in his first three seasons.
In his tenure, Furman has produced a solid offense, averaging 78.25 points per game in his four seasons. His teams have also shot at least 47% from the field and 34% from three in each of his four seasons. The Paladins are outscoring their opponents by a margin of at least 10 points in the last four seasons. If the fan base wants an exciting brand of basketball with a lot of points, Richey might be able to deliver on that at UNLV.
Kevin Kruger (UNLV Assistant)
It’s a name every Rebel fan is already familiar with and someone most UNLV fans are throwing out as a candidate. The most recent success UNLV has was when Kevin’s father Lon was the head coach and UNLV made the NCAA Tournament four of his last five seasons at UNLV, including making the Sweet 16 when Kevin was on the team.
Kevin has never been a head coach, but has worked as an assistant under his father at Oklahoma before Otzelberger hired him to be on staff at UNLV. Kevin fits the mold of the type of head coach Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois would want, a young, up and coming coach with limited head coaching experience. In fact, four of her head coaching hires at UNLV have been coaches who have never had previous head coaching experience.