Little Rock’s Beard offered Runnin’ Rebel job

Barring a last-minute breakdown in contract negotiations, it appears UNLV finally will name a head basketball coach on Monday.

Nope, it’s not Rick Pitino, Mike Brown, Stacey Augmon, Steve Lavin, Mick Cronin, Randy Bennett or Marvin Menzies, all names rumored to have been in play since the school fired Dave Rice back on Jan. 10 after a 0-3 start to Mountain West play.

Instead, the Runnin’ Rebels are expected to name Arkansas-Little Rock’s Chris Beard to become the school’s 12th full-time head coach.

The 43-year-old Beard became a hot name after earning Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year honors after leading Little Rock to a program-best 30-5 overall record and fifth NCAA Tournament appearance. The Trojans, who won the Sun Belt’s regular-season and tournament titles, rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 3:33 of regulation to upset fifth-seeded Purdue, 85-83, in double overtime in the first round on the Midwest Regional in Denver. UALR then lost to fourth-seeded Iowa State, 78-61, in the round of 32.

Prior to that, Beard spent 10 seasons as an assistant to legendary Bobby Knight at Texas Tech and compiled a 47-15 record in two seasons as head coach at Division II Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas. He was named Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Rams to a program-record 28 wins in the 2014-15 season and first-ever NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen appearance.

If Beard signs the doted line as expected – remember Cronin bailed after athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said he had verbally committed to take the job on Thursday – he will have to find replacements for two key starters who have left this month. Starting forward Dwayne Morgan announced he would transfer to be closer to his Baltimore home while star 7-foot forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. made it official on Monday that he has decided to enter the NBA Draft.

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