Let’s Speculate! Potential UNLV head basketball coach candidates
Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.
Today’s program is UNLV, coached by T.J. Otzelberger for the last two seasons (left for Iowa State on March 18).
- Todd Simon – Southern Utah head coach
- In just five years, Simon has taken Southern Utah from the Big Sky basement to league champions. Before SUU, he was in Vegas working at UNLV (2004-06, 2013-16) and former basketball powerhouse Findlay Prep (2006-13). Working under both Lon Kruger and Dave Rice, Simon actually spent 17 games as interim head coach of the 2015-16 Rebels (went 9-8). Bringing Simon back now would make a lot of sense given his head coaching resume and his familiarity with the school and city.
- Joe Pasternack – UC Santa Barbara head coach
- Rising star young coach on the West Coast, Pasternack swept the Big West this year and has the Gauchos back in the NCAA Tournament after a 10-year drought. Before getting the UCSB job, he spent six seasons with Sean Miller at Arizona (including four as associate head coach). He was also the head coach at New Orleans and worked under two really impressive coaches early on his career: Ben Braun as an assistant at Cal and Bob Knight as a student manager at Indiana.
- Russell Turner – UC Irvine head coach
- Another hot name out of the Big West, Turner has made UC Irvine the league’s best program over the last 10 years with five league titles, two NCAA Tournaments and two NITs. Prior to getting the UCI job in 2010, Turner spent six seasons with the Golden State Warriors as an assistant to Mike Montgomery (2004-06) and Don Nelson (2006-10) and four seasons at Stanford (also under Montgomery). He’s also a member of the Dave Odom coaching tree, having worked under him at Wake Forest for six years.
- Kevin Kruger – UNLV assistant coach
- Likely the best internal option, Kevin is the son of former UNLV head coach Lon Kruger and played for his father and the Rebels in 2006-07. After a pro career in the D-League and overseas, Kruger spent one year at Northern Arizona before joining Lon’s staff at Oklahoma in 2016. Stayed with Sooners for three years before returning to alma mater UNLV to be an assistant under Otzelberger two years ago. This hire could help hold together the Rebels’ impressive 2021 recruiting class (ranked #1 in the MWC and #16 nationally by 247Sports).
- Stacey Augmon – Sacramento Kings player development assistant
- A member of the of the 1990 National Championship team and a UNLV Hall of Fame inductee, Augmon is Runnin’ Rebel royalty. He has also been coaching for over a decade, including a five-year stint as an assistant at his alma mater. Now with the Sacramento Kings organization, Augmon would certainly bring some excitement to the UNLV program. Seeing other schools have success by hiring former star players (Juwan Howard and Patrick Ewing are both coaching in the NCAA Tournament this year), there is no doubt more schools will consider making similar moves. For UNLV, Augmon is most logical choice in that regard.
- Tim Miles – former Nebraska head coach
- A name that deserves to be brought up with pretty much any mid-major opening west of the Mississippi, Miles could kill it at UNLV. He has a proven track record in the Mountain West from his time at Colorado State and has won everywhere he’s coached (including Nebraska, he just couldn’t turn a corner there). Miles seems less of a risk to get poached by a P5 school over the next five years, too, so he could potentially be a long-term hire if things work out.
- Steve Prohm – former Iowa State head coach
- Newly unemployed, Prohm is a good bet to get picked up a by a mid-major over the next couple seasons. When he was at Murray State, he did about as well as anyone can do: four OVC titles and four postseason bids (2 NCAA, 1 NIT and a CIT title) in four years. He showed flashes at Iowa State, getting back to the NCAA Tournament in three of his first four years, but there’s no doubt he can win again in the right situation.
- Rick Pitino – Iona head coach
- A contender for the UNLV job two years ago when Otzelberger was hired, one would figure that Pitino should be in consideration again. There’s speculation that he may have a large buyout clause in his Iona contract, in which case whoever hired him would have to put up a lot of money to make it happen. Not sure if UNLV (or Pitino, for that matter) is interested right now, but still someone to keep an eye on.