Former Hawaii and Southern Methodist football coach June Jones plans to interview by phone with UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy on Monday, and his candidacy for the Rebels’ coaching job has the backing of the Maloof family.
Whether the involvement by the Maloofs affects what has appeared to be an inevitable hiring of Bishop Gorman High School coach Tony Sanchez remains to be seen.
The Maloofs’ backing of Jones at least could make the process more interesting, and Gavin Maloof made no secret of his support on Friday.
“June Jones is a dear friend of ours, and we’ve known him for many years when he was coaching at Hawaii,” Maloof said. “We think the world of him. We think he would do a great job for the program. He had a lot of success at Hawaii, taking them to the Sugar Bowl. He’s a great coach. He would do a good job for this program to turn this thing around.”
Jones confirmed he would interview by phone with Kunzer-Murphy, but didn’t offer much more of a comment.
His candidacy probably will only become serious if Kunzer-Murphy offers to fly in Jones from Hawaii. She also conducted phone interviews with former head coaches Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt.
Kunzer-Murphy did meet in person with Jim Fassel, the former New York Giants and Las Vegas Locomotives coach, but he lives in Las Vegas.
Phone interviews typically are a sign of lack of serious interest on a school’s part. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley even flew to Fort Collins, Colo., on Tuesday to interview and ultimately hire Colorado State coach Jim McElwain.
Those with some sort of connection to UNLV’s search process have said that it has seemed destined to end in the hiring of Sanchez, who will attempt to guide Gorman to its sixth consecutive state title today in Reno. The Gaels also are the nation’s top-ranked team in USA Today’s poll.
Rumors have swirled that the Fertitta family is supporting Sanchez, and that his hiring would mean a serious injection of money. Lorenzo Fertitta, the CEO of Ultimate Fighting Championship, has denied any financial commitment should Sanchez get hired.
But should no financial commitment ever be announced, Kunzer-Murphy will feel more heat for hiring a high school coach, a risky move even if the money is there.
Gavin Maloof also didn’t promise any financial commitment with the hiring of Jones. His brother, George, played football for the Rebels in 1986 and 1987.
“I don’t want to say,” Gavin Maloof said of potentially increasing the family’s financial commitment should Jones get hired. “All I can say is we back the program. We think the world of Tina. She’s doing a wonderful job. It’s not an easy job.”
If the Maloofs are successful in helping Jones land the job, the Rebels get a coach who has a history of turning around programs.
He took Hawaii from 0-12 in 1998 to nine wins the following season and a victory over Oregon State in the Oahu Bowl. In 2007, the Warriors went 12-0 in the regular season and made the Sugar Bowl, where they lost to Georgia.
Then Jones went to SMU, and in 2009 ended a 25-year bowl drought by taking the Mustangs to the Hawaii Bowl. That began a four-year postseason run.
But SMU went 5-7 last year, and Jones resigned two games into this season for personal reasons. The Mustangs are 0-11, and if Jones is to receive a serious in-person interview — from UNLV or another school — exactly why he left will be a key question.
The major question at UNLV now is whether the Maloofs can change the course of the search process and make it more open, or if Sanchez was always going to get the job, as has appeared to be the case since Bobby Hauck announced his resignation Nov. 28.
Contact Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.