Those of you who follow me both here and on twitter know that I’ve become a bit obsessed with Dave Rice. While we witnessed a coach come in and simply implode our basketball program (which is somehow being oddly celebrated by some), Dave Rice has gone to UNLV and made a good situation into an amazing situation and has UNLV set to do something I didn’t think could happen, become a national power again. And he’s doing it without cheating.
So I have to wonder a few things?
1. What could he have done here?
2. Was he ever considered?
3. If so, how close was he and what were the hang-ups?
So I decided to do something that I don’t like to do a lot of here at Hoyo’s Revenge and that is research. I called, emailed and tweeted anyone I might know with some information and I’ve come up with some answers.
Was Rice Considered?
The best answer here would be, sort of. Rice did have his supporters in the Athletic Department and among boosters, but Dr. Hill was not among them. As many people know, Utah decided to make a pitch to Dave Rose. A pitch that got Utah closer than anyone would have suspected. But Rose needed a financial commitment that would have set his family for life if he was going to make that move. Something in the neighborhood of 5 years 10 million dollars and well we’re Utah and we don’t do that.
But here is something I found out, in saying thanks but no thanks, Dave Rose himself recommended Dave Rice to Dr. Hill. And upon further research, it seems like Dave Rice might have almost been a perfect candidate at Utah. He is universally well thought of and clean. He’s not LDS but he coached at both Utah St. and BYU and has a great understanding of the uniqueness of Utah recruiting. And he is a hellatious recruiter. It was quite clear when Utah was looking that he was going to make someone a great head coach. Hill either knew or should have known all of this.
I was also able to find out that Rice would have been very interested in the Utah job with Utah moving to the Pac-12.
So What Worked Against Him?
If it could be summed up in one word EGO. And that EGO wasn’t his but belonged to Chris Hill and some of Utah’s Boosters, the same boosters that forced the Boylen firing. Hill wanted more input and control in the program, like having some control of assistant coach hiring and firing. (Don’t forget one of the things that caused Dr. Hill to go back on his promise to Boylen for two more season was Boylen’s refusal to make a staff change that Hill demanded.)
But Hill did float the name of Dave Rice to the boosters and was shot down with the boosters not wanting to be seen hiring a BYU assistant. EGO again.
However, something else worked against Dave Rice as well. Dave Rice was very good friends with Utah assistant Stan Johnson. This friendship was well known and Rice would almost certainly have retained Johnson as an assistant. Dr. Hill was on a jihad against all things Boylen and this was doubly true for Stan Johnson, whom Dr. Hill accused of shopping players in order to land himself an assistant job. (Which was completely untrue BTW).
So What Happens If We Had Hired Dave Rice?
First I want to address the people who will say he was going to UNLV. Check the time line. Utah had three weeks to land Rice before Kruger started to dance with UNLV. And even then there was no way that Rice could be considered the odds on favorite to land that job with several people who were coming hard to get it. Plus Utah would have offered more money, essentially as good a tradition especially when you think about the baggage, and the Pac-12.
But what would have likely happened , Rice retains Stan Johnson and probably brings in two of the assistants he did at UNLV, Justin Hutson and Heath Schroyer. Stan Johnson means that J.J. O’Brien stays, Shawn Glover as well. And it would have given us a heck of a shot at Will Clyburn. In fact my guess is that he stays to play in a system Rice would have run for him. That group would have had one heck of a year in a down Pac-12. And if his recruiting would have been half as good here as it has been at UNLV, well just imagine where we could be.
I don’t know where Larry is going to take us. Unless we get a star or two, its going to be slightly better than Boylen’s last year with a boost for a shockingly bad OOC schedule. But I don’t think it’s even an argument that if Hill had simply swallowed his pride and turned the job over to someone whom was recommended to him as vastly qualified, we’d be in a much much better place both now and long term.
If there is a debate I’d like to see it.