Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

WWJD 35: UNLV Basketball- Characteristics Of The Next Coaching Hire



My Type was the smash hit song that blew up and was made famous by female rapper Saweetie in 2019. It sort of became the women’s anthem for that year.


Monday Morning Beef
Photo Courtesy: UNLVRebels.com

Now that UNLV Director of Athletics Desiree Reed-Francois has hired two coaches for the would-be moneymakers of an athletic department since taking over the program (the football and basketball teams), there is a distinct type she looks for in a head coach. And since Las Vegas is extremely passionate about Runnin’ Rebels basketball, it sells a lot of papers and gets a lot of clicks to drop names that generate excitement with the fan base.

But the truth is the only person who really knows who is on a prospective coaching list is Reed-Francois. She won’t leak names to me or anyone in the media for that matter and will run this coaching search like she ran her two, stealth and in silence. Names will be dropped and speculated, but they are coming from those coaches agents trying to apply pressure to UNLV for the gig, admittingly in the past, I was also guilty of this. It led to disappointment from the fan base when those mentioned were not hired and does more harm than good to the school, the new coach, and Reed-Francois in the public eye.

The goal is to return UNLV to glory and have Thomas and Mack rockin’ again! Part of that goal should be to honor the past’s success, those who paved the way, and have them welcomed back with open arms. But does that mean you dip into the past and bring back former Runnin’ Rebels coaches or players to coach? Or does that mean to go completely off the UNLV grid and bring in an outsider with no ties to the school? Should it be a coaching retread or an up and comer? Should it be a coach who wants to use UNLV as a stepping stone or a person who values UNLV as a destination program?

The answers vary to each of those questions, but Reed-Francois has certain criteria that she will not deviate from and won’t compromise. If we use her past hires as the barometer, then this is the type of coach fans should look for and not just a “big name” dropped or speculated by us media types.


Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number? – Aaliyah


Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media

Normally I would agree with this when it comes to hiring a head coach. But UNLV is not just a “pit stop” on the coaching road trip; it was and should be considered a destination job for coaches. It should be viewed as one of the marquee jobs in the country. The late Jerry Tarkanian held the job for 19 years, winning a National Title, so the expectations are high, and they should be.

But sadly, the current state of the program is it is a shell of itself. They’ve tried it all since Tark was forced out, so what’s best for UNLV going forward? If the past indicates what to look for, I would expect a young head coach or hot assistant to be the target. T.J. Otzelberger was one of the younger, up-and-comers in coaching circles, and Reed-Francois tabbed him to lead the Runnin’ Rebels basketball program. Marcus Arroyo was one of the best offensive coordinators in college football, and he was her top choice to replace Tony Sanchez to lead the football program.

Both Otzelberger (43 years-old) and Arroyo (41 years-old) fit the young head coach mold. Both come with impressive resumes and a ton of experience paying their dues as assistant coaches for respected programs. Their philosophy in building an athletic power while being outstanding students also is shared by Reed-Francois. There is also a new way of thinking, teaching, and a new way of coaching that Reed-Francois believes in, and her coaches share that philosophy.

So I would not expect an older coach to be in the mix as the new head coach. Are there exceptions to this? Yes, I believe so. If the coach also shares the same thinking as Reed-Francois, and if there was a direct and/or strong tie to the Las Vegas community or the Runnin’ Rebels program, I believe he would then be considered.

That leads to…


What’s The Scenario? – A Tribe Called Quest


UNLV vs New Mexico
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

The style of play UNLV plays with has to be more appealing to the fans. For too long, Thomas and Mack has been damn near empty except during NBA Summer League. The fan base is also hard because there is an older crowd at most games, and they long for the days of a fast pace offense that got started by their tremendous defense. The younger crowd doesn’t know or really care about the UNLV “glory years” and wants to be entertained or given a reason not to be glued to social media on their smartphones.

The next head coach has to put together an exciting offense that helps generate buzz at Thomas and Mack. Does that mean the run-and-gun of the Tark era? No, but it has to be better than weaves and isolation basketball with no defense being played. This isn’t a shot at any coaches, just an observation and part of a reason why the UNLV faithful haven’t been showing up. No one is going to show up to watch their team lose, but it makes it more painful to watch them lose playing unwatchable basketball.

It’s even tougher now. With the Vegas Golden Knights, Las Vegas Raiders, Henderson Silver Knights, Las Vegas Aviators, and Las Vegas Aces playing, fans could easily buy season tickets for one of those teams (use or sell those) and get UNLV tickets walking up to the window, and sit in a better seat for a more affordable price. UNLV basketball has to become the hottest ticket in town again.

So this is something Reed-Francois will be considering since the UNLV athletic department needs to increase their revenue, and getting Runnin’ Rebels fans in the seats at T&M is the easiest way to do that. Marketing UNLV basketball has to be hard for them. The fan base has a huge disparity in age, the program isn’t winning, and the team isn’t fun to watch, but all hope isn’t lost, and a new coach with a new brand of basketball could change things, along with winning.


Dirt Off Your Shoulder – Jay-Z


UNLV vs San Diego State
Photo Credit: STLToday

One of the most important characteristics Desiree Reed-Francois looks for and is one that everyone seems to overlook and not consider is the coach’s character. Reed-Francois is not gonna hire anyone who isn’t a wholesome family man.

To me, this is the main criteria that she considers when approaching any potential hire. That was the case with Otzelberger and Arroyo, and that would undoubtedly be the case here as well.

If this is the case, which I believe it is, that will eliminate Jason Kidd, Rick Pitino, Chris Jans, or any other person that has a checkered past on or off the court. Even UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack, who was tied to the University of Arizona cheating allegations as an assistant coach, would not be considered. While all these names have been linked to UNLV, using Reed-Francois’s history would tell you that they are indeed not on the list of potential candidates.

Again, that’s just using her track record for hiring coaches to deduce what Reed-Francois could be thinking during this coaching search. Do I know? No, admittingly, I don’t have a clue who she is looking at. Still, I am fairly confident that the next UNLV head basketball coach will not have a past that makes people uncomfortable, especially the athletic director.


C.R.E.A.M. – Wu-Tang Clan


UNLV vs Pepperdine
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics/Russell Luna

Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M. get the money, dolla, dolla, bill ya’ll!” were words made famous by the Wu-Tang Clan.

They also have to be considered here. UNLV doesn’t have the cash to buyout any coach, as I stated earlier, due to the athletic department being strapped for cash, despite the $8 million endowment and the $3 million Iowa State will pay them for Otzelberger. Sadly, unless a booster or alum comes to them with cash in hand, they won’t be paying another school a huge buyout or $2-$3 million a year for a coach.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t land a coach that will help create revenue by putting a winning product on the court. Whoever is hired, he has to be willing to go out and shake hands, kiss babies, and make all media requests he can to generate buzz and a positive message to the public with a smile. It does not seem like it is a big deal, but the reality is this means a lot and goes a long way in helping bring money in.

What I would look for in a potential head coach is the current school’s buyout, if there is one. A current Division-1 coach with a buyout of, let’s say, for example, $500K could be just right for UNLV to come in and poach away. That would be extremely appealing for Reed-Francois, maybe more so than a Divison-2 coach who doesn’t have a buyout. It would be the best of both worlds, a proven or semi-proven head coach coming to UNLV with experience, and the fans, alum, and boosters would know what to expect.

But ultimately, they have to win. Plain and simple.


I Get Around – 2Pac


UNLV Basketball
Photo Credit: Arthur Kaluma Twitter

Last but not least, Reed-Francois will look for a high-energy, passionate recruiter. Her coaches have finished Top 3 in recruiting in their respective classes during their time at UNLV. Otzelberger had the top class of 2020, so the next person needs to be better since there is no time to “wait to develop them” like in years past. The expectation is to win now. There will no “honeymoon period” since the Runnin’ Rebels are coming off their worst 5-year stretch in school history.

In both football and basketball, the players that are being recruited are high character and not risks in the classroom. So, I would look for the next coach she targets to come from a high academic standard program while playing ball at a high level. Normally, winning on the recruiting trail means winning on the court, so if UNLV can keep their 2020 class together and limit the number of transfers out of the program, they could have a quick turnaround.



So who could be on the shortlist of potential hires for Reed-Francois? Well,  I will tell you who it may be in a special WWJD series on Franchise Sports Media starting Monday morning. I will profile a few possible candidates who fit the profile and the type of UNLV A.D. Desiree Reed-Francois.

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-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

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