Aztecs aide Hutson joins Rice at UNLV

Justin Hutson remembers watching Dave Rice help UNLV win a national championship in 1990 and return to the Final Four in 1991.

Now he’s working for Rice with hope that history one day will repeat itself. The former San Diego State assistant coach agreed Monday to join Rice’s staff and serve as Rice’s top assistant.

"It was tough to leave those guys," Hutson said from San Diego, where he had spent five years on coach Steve Fisher’s staff. "I had recruited a lot of them and there were a lot of tears when I met with them (Monday).

"But this is one of the best jobs in the country and it’s a storied program. To come to Vegas and work for someone like Dave Rice, it’s a dream come true."

Hutson, 39, will make approximately $175,000 at UNLV after making $95,000 this past season when the Aztecs went 34-3 for the best year in school history and reached the NCAA Tournament round of 16.

Hutson has two championship rings from his playing career at Cal State Bakersfield; the Roadrunners won Division II titles in 1993 and 1994.

"(Hutson) as good a recruiter as there is," Rice said. "Justin did an unbelievable job at San Diego State. Not only did he recruit most of their players, he did a great job coaching and he can teach the game.

"He’s a great relationship guy who has an engaging personality. He’s very thorough and knows how to connect with kids and their families."

The son of a high school coach, Hutson said the job doesn’t end when a player signs his national letter of intent.

"I think kids want to know they’ll get better," Hutson said. "They obviously want to know the style of play. But ultimately, it’s all about hard work, being honest and selling. I’ve got a lot to sell being at UNLV."

Rice said he hopes to bring former Rebels teammate Stacey Augmon on board in the coming weeks. Augmon, a player development coach with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, told Rice he wants to join his staff, but doesn’t want to walk out on the Nuggets with the NBA playoffs starting this weekend.

"We can wait for Stacey," Rice said. "I understand his commitment (to the Nuggets) and that speaks to his character that he doesn’t want to leave the team before the job is done."

Rice said the other two staff positions will be filled this month. He said one spot will likely go to an experienced coach who doesn’t necessarily have West Coast or Las Vegas ties.

"I think we want a combo guy in that third spot, someone who can teach and also recruit," Rice said. "I think it would be helpful to have someone from another part of the country. We have Las Vegas and the West Coast covered."

The spring evaluation period resumes Friday, and Rice and Hutson both expect to be in gyms to watch prospects.

"I plan to be on the road Friday," Hutson said. "But first, I’ve got to stop by the Thomas & Mack and pick up a UNLV shirt."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or at 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.

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