Had UNLV fired Dave Rice at the end of the 2015 season, Mississippi State would likely have had another year of Rick Ray.
Most Mississippi State fans didn’t think that much about the firing of UNLV Head Coach Dave Rice this past Monday. Heck, many of you might not be aware at all he was fired. But Bulldog fans should be really thankful the UNLV Rebels initially decided to not let their head coach go at the end of the 2015 season.
It’s no secret coach Ben Howland wanted back into coaching after he was fired by the UCLA Bruins at the end of the 2013 season. Missouri and Tennessee for some reason passed on the coach prior to the 2014-15 season. It became well known before the 2015 season ended Howland put feelers out on whether or not UNLV would be making a coaching change at the end of the season.
UNLV was a highly attractive job to Howland. Coach Howland was in Califiornia, and the UNLV Rebels had a talented but underachieving roster. Rice led the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament his first two seasons as head coach and began to bring in highly ranked recruiting classes. The past three seasons have seen the recruiting classes of UNLV attain an average ranking of 15th in the country. For someone on the West Coast like Ben Howland, it’s obvious to see why Howland would want to go to Las Vegas.
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But the job never opened up. UNLV decided to stick with Dave Rice as their head coach and hope the talent on the roster would start to showcase the potential many believe it has. After an 8-2 start, a lot of people believed Dave Rice had found his way.
But since that time, things haven’t gone so well for UNLV. The Rebels have won just two of their past seven games, and Tina Kunzer-Murphy, UNLV’s Athletic Director, decided to make the change in the middle of the season.
And if you’re now wondering if Howland would consider jumping ship in just one season, just stop now. Maybe Howland bolts for a bigger paycheck in two or three seasons (I doubt it), but he isn’t leaving after one season. He is building a nice home in Starkville, and just signed a great recruiting class designed to make the team Howland coaches one of the best in the country. Howland isn’t leaving.
So if the Bulldogs make a run to the NIT this season or make the NCAA Tournament next season, you should know how critical timing of certain events can play a role in what you’re watching. If the Rebels had acted nine months earlier, you probably wouldn’t be so optimistic about the team you’re watching.