In the end, when she had evaluated the entire situation, when she looked further down the road than just one or two seasons, Desiree Reed-Francois took the emotion out of what was obviously an emotional decision for her and stood by the athletic director’s handbook.
“If I’m not confident in where we are headed, we need to make a change,” she said.
She did so Friday, when she fired men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies after his third season, bringing an end to a tenure that began with the culmination of one of the darkest points in program history — a coaching search that unquestionably set UNLV back years and produced a sense of communal apathy that has been almost impossible to rectify.
It’s a standard blueprint often used by those making hires in football and basketball: No matter how long a specific coach has been in place, no matter how fond you are of the individual and all the good you believe they are doing across the scope of a program, if you don’t think the person can lead you to those lofty heights for which you aspire, you look elsewhere.
“We don’t have to apologize for thinking we are going to win,” Reed-Francois said. “We can do it. This is a great basketball town. Our facilities are amazing. In the end, I felt I had to be confident. I don’t think there is one magic, silver bullet out there. I understand that.
“We need to get Runnin’ Rebel basketball back to where it should be, challenging for championships and being in the national landscape.”
It sounds good, and yet only time — and, most important, whom she hires — will tell whether any of it is possible. Menzies by no reasonable metric was given a fair shot. He inherited next to nothing and wasn’t even allowed to turn over his roster.
Even those who wanted him gone have to agree a pass was deserved that first season.
Well, at least those who wanted him gone with an ounce of sense.
Here’s a good thing: Nobody mentioned the following Friday — patience, rebuilding, the idea of a new coach needing his own guys.
None of that should fly. They just fired a coach after giving him, legitimately, two years to turn things around. The next guy needs to win. Now.
If there is any hope for the Thomas & Mack Center to stop featuring thousands and thousands of empty seats on game night, whoever is hired needs to produce instant success.
Too much to ask?
Not when you make the move that Reed-Francois did Friday.
Her answers told a predictable tale — that tickets sales and program interest and financial health within the university and, specifically, athletics played their anticipated part in the decision.
And yet all of that is on her and the marketing staff as much as any coach.
Everyone failed there.
Search firm reasoning
What surprised many was Reed-Francois announcing the use of a search firm to aid in the process, given a reasonable assumption was that she wouldn’t have moved on from Menzies without having his replacement hired.
But think about it: While she obviously would prefer for it not to drag on, in turn creating the belief of another such nightmare process at UNLV, college basketball right now has been overwhelmed by one scandal after another.
It’s a safe bet the FBI isn’t near finished with the sport.
So as she departs for places unknown this weekend and chases her list of candidates as the NCAA Tournament begins, a company such as Fogler Consulting can deeply and intently vet all such coaches.
These need to be deep background checks. Every job. Every alliance. Every shared meal with an AAU coach or handler. Every last conversation and move. Her call to have the firm investigate all of it is a good one.
Reed-Francois also can’t swing and miss here. The hire is as important to her future as it is the basketball program.
Look. It’s no secret. She wanted a change in football coaching and wasn’t able to make it. She most likely didn’t totally embrace one in basketball — at least not based on her fondness for Menzies and his family and how he treated his players — and yet thought that she had to make it.
So she did.
In unquestionably her biggest decision yet as UNLV athletic director, she followed the handbook.
“We will move quickly but prudently,” she said of the search. “I won’t place a deadline on our process.”
She shouldn’t. Not in the current climate of college basketball.
But she sure better get it right.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.