Shortly after coming to what he called a mutual agreement with UNLV Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy to step down as head coach on Sunday, Dave Rice took time to discuss the decision with local media.
Rice, a reserve guard on Jerry Tarkanian’s legendary 1990 national championship squad, was remarkably composed – some would say he even looked relieved – after ending his four-plus year reign as Runnin’ Rebels head coach. He finished with a 98-56 record but steps down after his team lost five of its last six games, including a disappointing 0-3 start to Mountain West Conference play.
“I want to do what’s right for everyone involved,” Rice said. “That’s my personality. I’m a team guy. It’s important to me that everyone knows that Tina and I met for quite a long time (Sunday afternoon) and we mutually agreed that I’d step aside.
“My whole concern is for our players. We had a very emotional meeting when I had an opportunity to meet with our players this afternoon. I love these guys. I obviously was a big part of the recruiting process with all of them.”
Rice coached UNLV to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first two years and also recruited two NBA first round draft picks in guard Rashad Vaughn (2015, Milwaukee) and overall 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett (Cleveland). His teams also defeated 10 ranked opponents including a memorable 90-80 victory upset of then No. 1-ranked North Carolina in 2011 at the Orleans Arena.
“I think we left the program in better shape than when we took it over, just like Lon Kruger did,” Rice, who plans to coach again, said. “I feel like this is a program that is poised for greatness in the future.”
Assistant coach Todd Simon, the team’s ace recruiter who coached nearby Findlay Prep to a mythical national prep championship in 2013, was named as interim head coach. The Runnin’ Rebels return to action on Tuesday (9-7, 0-3) night against New Mexico at 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack.