Coaches with Las Vegas ties among first March Madness victims

Updated March 10, 2018 - 2:39 pm

It wasn’t the greatest of seasons for head college basketball coaches with Las Vegas ties.

Two got fired.

One almost got into a fight because of it.

Reggie Theus, the star of UNLV’s first Final Four team in 1977, became involved in a “heated verbal altercation” with Cal State Northridge athletic director Brandon Martin over his dismissal. The school president also fired Martin, and Theus (53-125 in five seasons at CSUN) filed a battery complaint.

Just another day of March Madness, one supposes.

Regina Miller, who guided UNLV’s Lady Rebels to seven consecutive winning seasons, one NCAA Tournament berth and a runner-up finish in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, received a pink slip from Illinois-Chicago.

Her Flames went 26-9, set a program record for victories and won the Women’s Basketball Invitational championship in 2013-14, but that would be her last winning season. UIC was 8-22 in 2017-18, dropping Miller’s record to 95-122 in seven seasons.

Lon Kruger is 18-13 at Oklahoma, but when the Sooners were 14-2, many experts had them pegged for their second Final Four appearance in three years. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Kruger and Trae Young in a play-in game against St. Mary’s as of Saturday morning, but there is sure to be anxiety when the brackets are announced.

Three seasons ago, former Durango High equipment manager and Lute Olson disciple Jack Murphy had Northern Arizona in the College Insider.com Tournament title game. NAU has gone 5-25, 9-23 and 4-20 since.

Also in the Big Sky, former UNLV interim coach Todd Simon improved from 6-27 in his first year at Southern Utah to 13-19 in his second, thanks in part to former Rebel Dwayne Morgan, who averaged 12.2 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds in 21 games after becoming eligible.

Kruger proteges Marvin Menzies and Steve Henson won 20 and 19 games at UNLV and Texas-San Antonio, respectively. Lew Hill, another of Lon’s men, finished 15-16 at Texas-Rio Grande Valley after losing to Seattle in the Western Athletic Conference tournament at Orleans Arena.

And Jay Wright went right on winning at Villanova and invoking comparisons to George Clooney. Two years removed from his one shining moment and a national championship victory, the former UNLV aide under Rollie Massimino is seeking another. He has the Wildcats ranked No. 2 and on the top line of the bracket as a projected No. 1 seed.

Which bring us to that Chris Beard guy.

The guy who was UNLV’s coach for 19 days in 2016.

The Chris Beard Era, wiseguys called it.

Beard is now the coach for 365 days a year at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders play in the toughest conference in the country and went 24-9 under Beard. They are a No. 5 seed on Lunardi’s bracket as it now stands.

The athletic director at Texas Tech is Kirby Hocutt. I’m told he and Chris Beard don’t argue about much.

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■ Mark Al La Rocque among those who are pleased the Pac-12 women’s tournament is moving to Las Vegas. The former Las Vegas high school coaching icon was spotted at the Pac-12 men’s tournament at T-Mobile Arena wearing Cardinal-colored clothing adorned with evergreen trees. His daughter, Lindy, who went to four Final Fours as a Stanford player, just completed her first year as an assistant on The Farm under legendary coach Tara VanDerveer.

■ Somehow I have managed to upset almost the entire basketball-playing state of Arizona. Grand Canyon is mad because I called it a diploma mill; Arizona State because I said it started a skirmish against Colorado; Arizona because I said Jerry Tarkanian would have handled adversity better than Sean Miller. Good thing Northern Arizona was playing in the Big Sky tournament in Reno.

■ Saturday’s Mountain West championship game marked the 10th anniversary of “Psycho” Sarah Cummard, wife of former Brigham Young star Lee, getting into a fight with UNLV fans who stormed the court after the Rebels’ 76-61 victory. She’s part of the reason there’s now a barrier blocking access to the floor from the stands at the Thomas &Mack Center that I like to call The Great Wall of Cummard.

While I miss Jimmer Fredette, I think I miss “Psycho” Sarah more.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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