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Coach hunt case study in turmoil

As an institution, UNLV is committed to providing teachable moments. But we’ve got to wonder if the athletic department is really on board with the concept after its public face-plant while trying to hire a basketball coach.

In a town full of people who think they’ve seen everything, THAT was unusual. Regular readers know we were looking at this as a case study in a fish bowl. Let’s review what we’ve learned: While others have given UNLV a pass on the circumstances surrounding Texas Tech’s sudden interest in Chris Beard just days after his hiring in Vegas, I can’t.

Beard’s hiring was already the result of a failed search that grabbed a warm body to prevent further embarrassment. How’d that work out? As a late bloomer with limited experience and one good season, Beard was a stretch for UNLV. He’s a panic hire by Texas Tech, which played the “one of us” card that failed UNLV in the hiring of Dave Rice.

In going with Marvin Menzies, UNLV gets a guy with similar credentials, more maturity and a genuine interest in being the coach of the Runnin’ Rebels. Let’s hope it works out and he has a long and successful run. But that doesn’t make this a successful search.

By firing Rice at midyear, UNLV had the first-mover advantage. For whatever reason, it didn’t take advantage despite clear signs some “name” coaches were interested. It was painful to watch UNLV struggle while other universities made up their minds and closed deals within 48 hours.

Did UNLV overplay its hand? It seems likely, and that would fall squarely on the person leading the search, Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy.

What about the ludicrous delay in getting sign-off from the regents? Other public universities have figured it out. Phone meetings are common. Maybe that’s where the regents were trying to get with this contract template.

But who then messed up the Beard contract? That seems likely an athletic department gaffe, but the mismanagement of the regents’ relationship falls squarely at the feet of UNLV President Len Jessup.

The resulting scenario of long delays and public debate will cause many to cross UNLV off their career path. And that’s on the regents.

All in all, the whole affair is a teachable moment on how not to manage a search. Let’s hope UNLV is educable.

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