UNLV announces four finalists to replace Kruger

In the end, Dave Rice could be the chosen one. But as UNLV continues the process of hiring a basketball coach, Rice definitely has company from three other candidates.

Reggie Theus, Mike Dunlap and Ernie Kent join Rice on the list of four finalists to fill the opening created Friday when Lon Kruger left the Rebels after seven seasons.

UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood called the search "exhaustive and thorough" after he named the finalists Tuesday.

"All four of the people coming in are quality coaches," Livengood said. "I think any one of the four could and would be a great head coach at UNLV."

Rice and Theus played for the Rebels during memorable eras. Rice was a reserve on the 1990 NCAA championship team. Theus was a leading star on UNLV's first Final Four team in 1977.

Rice will be in Las Vegas today to interview with UNLV president Neal Smatresk and other school officials.

"I'm really excited to have the opportunity to talk about the program," said Rice, Brigham Young's associate head coach.

Rice joined the BYU coaching staff in May 2005, and he has coordinated the Cougars' offense and recruiting. He spent 11 seasons as an assistant at UNLV but was not retained by Kruger in 2004.

Theus, an NBA assistant for the Minnesota Timberwolves, has an interview at UNLV scheduled for Thursday.

Theus was head coach of the Sacramento Kings in 2007-08, and he also has college head coaching experience at New Mexico State.

Livengood said Dunlap and Kent will interview by Friday, but arrangements have not been finalized.

Dunlap is a veteran assistant widely regarded as a strong bench coach. He is currently an assistant at St. John's and was associate head coach at Arizona in 2008-09 while Livengood was Arizona's athletic director.

There are also ties between Dunlap and Kent. Dunlap was associate head coach to Kent at Oregon in 2009-10. Kent was the Ducks' head coach for 13 seasons from 1997 to 2010. He was fired after an eighth-place finish in the Pac-10 Conference.

But Kent guided Oregon to the NCAA Tournament five times, and his Ducks defeated UNLV 76-72 in the Sweet 16 in 2007. Kent was recently passed over by Wyoming, and his name is linked to the vacancy at Fresno State.

The Rebels' next coach will inherit four returning starters, including sophomore guard Anthony Marshall.

"In the locker room, we're just anxious to see who's going to be the coach. We feel like all four are good candidates," Marshall said. "The coach is coming in to our program and taking over, so of course you want to pay attention to it. But it's out of our control."

Their leader is gone and their schedule is not structured, but Marshall said UNLV's players continue to work out daily.

Kruger signed a seven-year contract Friday with Oklahoma for $2.2 million per year, doubling his pay at UNLV.

Marshall said he talked with Kruger over the phone that day. But when Kruger called a meeting with the Rebels' players Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, only five players attended and Marshall was not one. He said he was not angry, however.

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Kruger and his staff. They helped me to get in the position I am today," Marshall said. "Anytime you see somebody go like that, it hurts.

"But I'm mature enough to understand it's a business decision. He made a business decision, and you can't fault him for that."

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.