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Chambers is best fit for UNLV baseball

UNLV shouldn’t hire Tim Chambers to lead its struggling baseball program because he is a terrific coach, having built College of Southern Nevada into a junior college power the last 11 seasons.

The Rebels shouldn’t hire him because he is a local favorite, having spent nine seasons at Bishop Gorman before arriving at CSN, beginning the process that today has the Gaels as one of the nation’s top prep programs.

They shouldn’t hire him for his fundraising talent, which has allowed him to raise an average of $300,000 annually for CSN’s program and could bring in near half a million annually for UNLV baseball.

They shouldn’t hire him because Chambers at UNLV probably would make CSN an annual feeder of talent into the Rebels program, a good thing when you consider many of the Coyote players this season would have played over those at UNLV.

They should hire Chambers for all of the above reasons.

It’s simple: He’s the best fit.

“They would have to really want to win and make a commitment to winning both financially and from a fundraising standpoint,” Chambers said on Thursday in Grand Junction, Colo., shortly after CSN was eliminated from the Junior College World Series. “I built (CSN) from the ground up. We have accomplished a lot. Everything would have to be perfect for me to leave.

“Absolutely, the (UNLV job) intrigues me. I believe they can win big there. With the right person and support, it can be done.”

I was working in San Diego in May 2001 when Tony Gwynn, in his final season with the Padres, publicly stated interest in becoming the next coach at his alma mater, San Diego State.

Little more than a year later, he officially took over the program.

SDSU officials, of course, had no choice. Gwynn secured the job the moment he spoke up. It was Tony Gwynn in San Diego; not adhering to his wishes would have been like Derek Jeter having to pay for dinner in New York.

While the Aztecs have struggled for most of Gwynn’s tenure — they are 242-241 and have advanced to the NCAA regionals just once — you can make the argument that the publicity their program has gained with a Hall of Famer as its coach is far more than it previously received.

Chambers in Las Vegas isn’t Tony Gwynn in San Diego, but what the CSN coach has that Gwynn didn’t eight years ago is an expert grasp on how to win at the college level. Chambers understands recruiting — which prospects to chase and which are dead-set on signing professionally — and how facilities and having an operating budget that allows you to see as many recruits as possible each season all translate into success.

You don’t hire a local favorite because it’s the popular choice. You hire one when it’s the correct choice.

Timing is critical and this is it.

This is the time for Chambers and UNLV to connect.

“Bishop Gorman hadn’t been to the playoffs in the history of the school before we got there and we won a ton of games,” Chambers said. “We have a national championship and six conference titles and just made the (World Series) again (at CSN). I don’t know a lot of guys who have won at that level at high school, junior college and Division I in their own town. The idea of that possibility excites me.

“The main reason I would be interested in the job is to get to Omaha and the (College World Series). That should always be the goal there.”

Jim Livengood is a new athletic director at UNLV with an immense challenge to make the Rebels better across the board. He has difficult decisions to make and daily prayers to say, mainly in hopes of getting his football program out of its abyss of mediocrity.

I’m sure big names and impressive resumes have landed on Livengood’s desk for the baseball job. I’m sure discussions have occurred. Livengood knows good college baseball, having watched for years at Arizona, which has made the College World Series 15 times.

I’m also convinced this isn’t one of those difficult decisions.

This is it. It’s time. UNLV needs to hire Tim Chambers, step out of the way, allow him to coach, to raise funds, to recruit, to run its baseball program in a way that could deliver the kind of success it has never known.

He’s the best fit.

Not for one of the reasons listed above. For all of them.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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