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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Congrats to UNLV for avoiding trap of Brown or Knight

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UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood hired BYU associate head coach Dave Rice on Sunday.

Which means he didn't hire Larry Brown.

Which means Livengood took calls from Brown and Brown's close friend, John Calipari, listened to their pitches, then proceeded with UNLV's search uninterrupted, never truly swayed by the fact that a past-his-prime Hall of Famer wanted to coach the Rebels. For that, Livengood should be applauded, because though I can't guarantee Rice will win a national championship as a coach like he did as a player, I'm quite sure hiring Brown would've been a mistake.

Rice played on a national title team, and beats out aged adversaries to return as UNLV's coach. (Getty Images)  
Rice played on a national title team, and beats out aged adversaries to return as UNLV's coach. (Getty Images)  
He's 70 years old, for crying out loud.

Brown would've been the second-oldest coach in Division I -- behind only Jackson State's 74-year-old Tevester Anderson. Hiring him would've been a short-sighted, headline-grabbing move practically guaranteed to end badly because, let's be honest, coaching high-major basketball is not a job for a 70-year-old man.

Hell, it's barely a coaching job.

Coaching at the high-major level is more about marketing than matchup zones, more about recruiting than anything. It's a grind. It's long days of evaluating in small gyms followed by long nights of phone calls with AAU coaches followed by early mornings of media obligations. The only coaches capable of success in their 70s in this sport are coaches who've spent decades building and establishing programs that can sort of run on autopilot now. Syracuse's Jim Boeheim could probably do it; so could Connecticut's Jim Calhoun. But it should be noted that Boeheim and Calhoun are 66 and 68, operating at a high level, and many of us have still tried to retire them at some point over the past five years. Almost everybody thinks it's time for Calhoun to bounce, even though he just won a national championship last week.

And UNLV was supposed to start fresh with Larry Brown?

Please.

Hiring Brown would've been just as silly as hiring Bob Knight -- another 70-year-old legend who reportedly was interested in the job. Brown and Knight are brilliant basketball minds, no question; if they ever hold a coaching clinic, I'd advise attending. But Brown lacks the stability to be successful at the high-major level, and Knight lacks the energy.

For proof, consider that Brown has coached 11 different teams since Boeheim took over at Syracuse and only spent more than four years at a place three times. Meanwhile, Knight remains the only high-major coach in history I never actually saw at a summer event while he was still coaching. I was on the recruiting circuit in some form for the final four Julys of Knight's tenure at Texas Tech, and I swear I never saw him. It's possible our schedules just had us in different spots every day, I guess. But I've never gone a July without seeing Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, Bill Self and Jay Wright, Boeheim and Calhoun, and I saw Lute Olson every summer before he finally retired. Bob Knight? I never saw him once, and that's among the reasons he never finished better than fifth in the Big 12 in his final three seasons.

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Still, Brown and Knight reportedly wanted the UNLV job.

Congrats to UNLV for resisting.

Hiring either would've been desperate and wrong.

Brown probably wouldn't have lasted three years for a variety of reasons, and other schools would've used his constant jumping around against him on the recruiting trail.

"I would love to play for Larry Brown, too, and I can see why you're interested in doing that," a rival recruiter might say to a prospect. "But you realize he never stays anywhere four years, don't you? So you can sign with UNLV if you want, but you're not going to play for Larry Brown. You're going to end up playing for his replacement. Are you OK with that?"

Knight would've faced similar issues.

"Coach Knight is tremendous, but if he cares about you, why doesn't he come and see you in the summer," a rival recruiter might ask a prospect. "I'm here every day, gonna be here every day. And I won't quit on you in February of your sophomore year. You know that's how his career ended at Texas Tech, right? He just up and quit, unannounced, in February. So you can sign with UNLV if you want, but you're not going to play for Bob Knight. You're going to end up playing for his replacement. Are you OK with that?"

Rather than walk into one of those messes, UNLV chose wisely.

The school didn't go for a cheap headline-grab.

By doing so, it avoided a colossal mistake.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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