After four seasons as Nevada’s head basketball coach, Eric Musselman is in final negotiations to take the same position at Arkansas. Here are 25 potential candidates to replace Musselman as Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth looks to fill the big void left by Musselman’s departure.
With head-coaching experience
Nevada will most likely select a candidate with Division I head-coaching experience. Some options:
* Russell Turner, UC Irvine head coach: Turner took Irvine to the Round of 32 this season, although he’s not a Johnny Come Lately to this list. He’s been here for years. In nine seasons, Turner is 187-128 overall and 101-47 in the Big West. He’s averaged 23.3 wins over the last seven seasons, with two NCAA Tournament berths, two NITs and two CITs. He’s won four Big West regular-season titles (with two runner-up finishes) in the last six years. Turner was involved in the Cal and Stanford searches and has been an assistant at Wake Forest, Stanford and with the NBA’s Warriors. He’d be a good choice.
* Travis DeCuire, Montana head coach: DeCuire has done a wonderful job in five years at Montana, winning at least 20 games four times, with back-to-back 26-win campaigns that led to NCAA Tournament berths (both first-round losses to Michigan). DeCuire is 109-58 overall and 71-22 in the Big Sky, a conference he has dominated (three regular-season and two tournament titles in five years). He’s twice been a runner-up at Cal – where he was an assistant from 2008-14 – and should be ready for a new challenge. He just agreed to a three-year extension with Montana, so his buyout might be an issue.
* Steve Alford, unemployed: The well-traveled Alford took UCLA to three Sweet 16s in five seasons but was given a pink slip halfway through this year. He’s a proven winner – 587–298 overall – and has experience in the MW, leading New Mexico to four regular-season titles and three NCAA Tournaments in six seasons there. He averaged 25.8 wins per season at New Mexico, which has imploded since he left. Alford has coached at four D-I schools, so keeping him long term might be unrealistic unless he’s soured on power-conference jobs (unlikely). The big issue is money. Nevada might not be able to afford him.
* Tim Miles, unemployed: Miles has never taken “the easy job.” He’s been at Nebraska, Colorado State, North Dakota State, Southwest Minnesota State and Mayville State University, with varying levels of success at each stop. He went 116-114 at Nebraska with just once NCAA Tournament berth in seven seasons. He was 71-88 at Colorado State but inherited a mess and built an NCAA Tournament squad. He’s a good coach and as a bonus has the same energy (and social media game) as Musselman.
* Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon head coach: The former NBA player seems perfectly happy at Grand Canyon, where he’s led the program’s transition from Division II to Division I, so this might be an unrealistic target (he denied interest in Illinois’ job previously, and Nevada isn’t a Power 5). The former NBA player has proven to be a really good coach – he’s 123-72 overall and 59-28 in the WAC in six seasons, albeit without an NCAA Tournament berth – but seems happy to stay in the Phoenix area.
* Joe Pasternack, Santa Barbara head coach: Pasternack was linked to Nevada when the job was last open, although he never got an on-campus interview. One major issue is his name has been mentioned in the FBI’s investigation into Arizona, where he was an assistant, which could keep him off the list. But he’s done a solid job at UCSB (while adding Pack transfers Leland King and Devearl Ramsey). Pasternack has a 22- and a 23-win season in his two years at UCSB and also was New Orleans’ head coach.
* Ryan Odom, UMBC head coach: Geographically, this makes no sense. The furthest West Odom has held a job is Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, N.C. And we’re talking nine different jobs. He’s basically stuck on the eastern seaboard his whole career. So you’d be right to question the fit given his lack of history west of the Eastern time zone. But Odom (the son of three-time ACC coach of the year Dave Odom) has done an excellent job at UMBC, including an upset of No. 1 seed Virginia as a 16 seed in the 2018 Big Dance.
* Chris Jans, New Mexico State head coach: Jans comes with baggage after being fired by Bowling Green for violating his morals clause after drunkenly engaged in lewd and inappropriate behavior toward women at a near-campus bar. But he can coach. Jans was an assistant at Wichita State following his firing at Bowling Green and has been New Mexico State’s coach the last two seasons, going 58-11 overall and 27-3 in the WAC with two NCAA Tournament appearances. But is the baggage too much?
* Randy Rahe, Weber State head coach: Rahe seems like a Weber State lifer. He’s been in Ogden for 13 seasons, posting eight 20-wins campaigns. He’s made the NCAA Tournament three times, the NIT twice, the CIT three times and the CBI once. He’s 0-5 in NCAA Tournament/NIT games, so he hasn’t won the big stage but is a good coach who is 154-53 in the Big Sky, where he’s a four-time coach of the year.
Old Wolf Pack friends
Former members of the Nevada Wolf Pack staff who could be considered for the position:
* Trent Johnson, unemployed: Trent Johnson isn’t going to be Nevada’s next head coach, but we can at least entertain the notion for fun. Had Mark Fox been available, I could have seen a reunion. But Fox recently agreed to become Cal’s head coach, and is reportedly adding Johnson to his staff. While there are a lot of coaches on this list with ties to Nevada, my guess is the Wolf Pack starts with a fresh name.
* Dennis Gates, Florida State assistant coach: The ex-Nevada assistant (from 2009-11) has spent the last eight seasons on the Florida State bench and has been in the mix for head jobs before (notably at his alma mater, Cal). He’s an up-and-comer in his late-30s. While he’s never been a head coach, he’s an excellent recruiter who has been at power programs like Florida State, Marquette and Cal. Given his lack of head-coaching experience, he’s a high-risk, high-reward option who will get a head job at some point.
* Johnny Jones, Texas Southern head coach: The former LSU head coach (and North Texas and Memphis before that) was Nevada’s associate head coach in 2017-18 before being hired by Texas Southern where Jones went 24-13 this season, including a win over Oregon, a Sweet 16 team. Jones is 319-247 over 18 seasons as a head coach with three NCAA Tournament appearances, where he is 0-3.
* Dedrique Taylor, Cal State Fullerton head coach: Taylor was an assistant at Nevada under Fox from 2004-06 before leaving for Arizona State, where he was an assistant until 2013 when he got his first head job, at Cal State Fullerton. In six seasons, Taylor is 83-107 overall and 40-56 in the Big West with one NCAA Tournament appearance and two CIT first-round exits. He inherited a tough situation, but he hasn’t done anything to increase his profile at Fullerton, so this seems an unlikely match.
* Dave Rice, Washington assistant coach: Rice was an assistant at Nevada in 2016-17, so the Wolf Pack administration is familiar with him. He’s been at Washington the last two seasons, helping turn around that program. He piled up a 98-54 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances in four-plus seasons at UNLV before some boosters fouled up that situation. Rice recruited at a high level at UNLV and has a ton of experience in the MW, where he has coached in 18 of the league’s 20 seasons.
* Doug Stewart, unemployed: Musselman’s first assistant-coaching hire when he arrived at Nevada was Stewart, who served one year at Nevada before leaving for Tulane. He’s been an assistant at Oregon State (where he was briefly interim head coach) as well as Columbia and Brown and was head coach at Casper College. He has good West Coast AAU connections (he’s a big reason Nevada got Cam Oliver).
* Gus Argenal, Nevada assistant coach: If Nevada wanted to go with somebody on staff – I don’t think it is going that route – the top candidate would be Argenal, who has head-coaching experience at the Division II level (at Cal State East Bay) as well as multiple D-I assistant stints. He’s a bright young coach who has been a quiet key to Nevada’s success the last two years, but is he ready to lead a MW program?
* Rex Walters, Nevada assistant to the head coach: Nevada also could opt for Walters if it wanted to keep somebody from the current staff. Walters has D-I experience after being the head coach at Florida Atlantic and San Francisco. He posted a 157-158 overall record and 81-83 conference mark during 10 seasons over those two stops. He made three postseason appearances (one NIT, CBI and CIT).
* Josh Newman, Texas-Permian Basin head coach: Newman was an assistant at Nevada for three seasons, including the 2004 Sweet 16 campaign, before leading Arkansas-Fort Smith for 12 seasons, turning the program from a junior college into a Division II school. Last season, he moved to the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, which went 15-14. He’s a program builder without a big name.
Top college assistants
Assistants coaches who have never been Division I head coach who could be considered:
* Tommy Lloyd, Gonzaga assistant coach: If Nevada wants to swing for the fences, it could aim for Lloyd, the Zags’ head coach in waiting, although he might be waiting a while as Mark Few is only 56. Lloyd, an expert in international recruiting, has been at Gonzaga since 2000 and might be ready to lead his own program (and Nevada is a more attractive job now than it was two years ago). Previous Gonzaga head coaches in waiting Bill Grier (USD) and Leon Rice (Boise State) both ultimately left for head jobs.
* Tommy Connor, Utah associate head coach: Knuth and Connor both worked at Utah, so surely they’ve crossed paths. Connor has had two stints with the Utes after serving under Rick Majerus from 1991-97 and having a second tenure from 2011-current. Connor is Utah’s associate head coach but has head-coaching experience. He built NAIA Westminster College from scratch and posted a 264-114 record between his two Utah stints. Connor was a finalist from the Utah State head-coaching job in 2015.
* Ryan Miller, TCU assistant coach: Miller is clearly a very good assistant coach. The question is whether he’d be a good head coach. The TCU assistant also had a two-year stint at UNLV, where he was named the fourth-best recruiter outside the power conferences. He also had stints at Auburn, New Mexico, Pepperdine and Memphis, so the experience is there, just not as a head coach. Miller was TCU’s “assistant head coach” this season, so Jamie Dixon clearly trusted him. He’s on the path for a head gig.
* Thad Matta: Nevada does not have the money for this, and Matta has had health issues that have kept him from taking another head job after a successful stint at Ohio State. But it’s fun to think about.
* David Padgett: The Reno High alum was Louisville’s interim coach in 2017-18, a season that ended without an NCAA Tournament berth (the squad went 22-14). It’s unlikely, but there’s a local link here.
* Becky Hammon: The NBA Spurs assistant coach is worth a look. She was a candidate at Colorado State last offseason and would be the first female head coach of a D-I men’s team.
* Rick Pitino: Ha! Ha! Ha!
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayRGJ.