Coaches in Rice’s corner

With his most prominent college basketball mentor, Jerry Tarkanian, sitting in the front row, Dave Rice quickly recited a list of coaches he’s worked under.

Gaining knowledge from each of them helped Rice land at the podium Monday for his introduction as the newest coach of UNLV’s — and Las Vegas’ — most prized athletics program.

Rice, a reserve for Tarkanian on the 1990 national championship team and 1991 Final Four squad, began his coaching career under Tarkanian and continued for eight more Rebels coaches.

He then moved on to coach under Utah State’s Stew Morrill and Brigham Young’s Dave Rose.

Rice said the head coaches he worked for have won more than 2,000 games.

"I think any head coach is really the compilation of all the coaches that he’s worked for," Rice said. "You see some things you really like that you naturally implement. You see some things that maybe you’d do a little different."

Rice succeeds Lon Kruger, who left April 1 for Oklahoma.

"Dave is the perfect hire for UNLV," Kruger said in a statement. "The guys are going to enjoy playing for him. He has a great system and he’ll treat the players right. The community will also get behind Dave.

"UNLV will have success under Dave, a lot of success. And we’ll be rooting for him and the Rebels along the way."

It was Kruger who, shortly after being hired by UNLV in 2004, decided not to retain Rice.

Then-Utah State assistants Randy Rahe and Don Verlin — now head coaches at Weber State and Idaho, respectively — recommended Rice to Morrill.

Rice worked hard, and was especially aggressive in recruiting many players who led the Aggies on their current four-year run of Western Athletic Conference regular-season championships.

On the recruiting trail, Morrill said, Rice would talk to anyone close to a prospect — from family members to high school, junior college and AAU coaches.

"Everybody was comfortable with him," Morrill said. "If you don’t like Dave Rice, you better check your hole card because there’s something wrong with you."

Rice spent a season at Utah State before moving to BYU. He was promoted to the Cougars’ associate head coach in 2008, serving as offensive and recruiting coordinator for a program that has produced five 25-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances in a row. BYU reached the round of 16 this season.

"UNLV has hired a great coach," BYU’s Rose said in a statement. "Dave is very deserving of this opportunity and he’ll do a great job. He has been a huge part of our success over the last six seasons. He has a great mind for the game of basketball."

One common theme among Rice’s former bosses was his love for the Rebels. UNLV got the coach it targeted, one who dreamed of returning to his alma mater.

"Most hires that are reciprocal are for the best," said Loyola Marymount coach Max Good, who guided the Rebels for the final 22 games of the 2000-01 season. "This may not be the sexiest hire, but it very well could be the best."

Charlie Spoonhour, who coached the Rebels from 2001 to 2004, also praised the hire.

"David has a true loyalty to the school and the people there," Spoonhour said in a text message. "He is as intelligent as anyone I have met. Players trust him and will work for him. Personally I think the top quality David brings is loyalty. In this current coaching climate, it’s not often used to describe basketball programs."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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