Dave Rice has received a contract extension to remain at UNLV through the 2018-19 season, the university announced on Saturday.
The extension adds two years to Rice’s current deal, which was set to run out after the 2016-17 season. The contract still has to be officially approved by the Board of Regents, but that would appear to be a formality at this point.
The announcement closes the book on a crazy 48-hour period that saw Rice teeter on the brink of leaving UNLV. News broke on Friday that Rice had interviewed for the vacant head coaching position at South Florida, and he reportedly received a lucrative offer from USF in the $6-8 million range. Rice flew back to Las Vegas to negotiate with UNLV administrators, however, and eventually came to terms on the extension on Saturday.
“I am excited about the future of our men’s basketball program at UNLV and appreciate the confidence that the administration has in the direction we are headed,” Rice said via the university’s press release. “Our staff has done a good job of assembling next season’s team. We are looking forward to coaching the returning players as well as the newcomers.”
With Rice back in the fold, let’s take a look at what’s next for UNLV:
With Rice returning, the Rebels’ prized 2014 recruiting class should remain intact. Things were on shaky ground for a while—when word leaked out that Rice was considering the South Florida offer, incoming recruits Rashad Vaughn, Dwayne Morgan and Goodluck Okonoboh were on the verge of de-committing and scattering. But a source told RunRebs.com that Rice reached out to all three during the process to assure them he was staying at UNLV, which quieted their concerns. According to the source, all three are still on track to enroll this summer and suit up for the Rebels in 2014-15. With all three likely to play big roles as freshmen, it was imperative that UNLV keep them in the fold. Losing them would have been disastrous for next season and beyond.
Rice is locked into the top spot on the bench, and now he has to turn his attention to filling out the rest of the coaching staff. Heath Schroyer’s departure has left a void, and Rice has said he also wants to add a separate “special assistant” position before next year. That means he’ll have to make two hires this offseason. Now that his extension is secured, expect Rice to begin working on winnowing the candidates.
Building for next year
The Rebels are positioned for a great run next year, but they’ve still got some sorting out to do in terms of personnel. In addition to the incoming freshmen, Rice has to figure out which players will still be around next season. Bryce Dejean-Jones is already gone, but stars like Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith still haven’t announced whether they’re leaving or returning, and those decisions will go a long way toward shaping next year’s roster. And there’s always the threat of lesser players transferring out in search of more playing time. The sooner all that is settled, the sooner Rice can begin constructing the 2014-15 team.
Vote of confidence
On the human side of things, this has to feel good for Rice, who began to take some heat for the way the 2013-14 season ended. But the extension should serve as a big indicator of how much UNLV wants to keep him around. Even the harshest fans—the ones whose first instincts are always to fire the coach—got a good look at how decimated the basketball program would have been if Rice had left. In that sense, everyone now has a better appreciation for what Rice is doing at UNLV. Expectations will be high next year, and the pressure will be on Rice to win big, but at least he knows he’s got the support of the administration and the fan base.
Rice Tells Recruits He’s Staying at UNLV
Report: Dave Rice Considering Offer From South Florida
Rashad Vaughn Ready to Get Started at UNLV
Class of 2015 Prospect Elijah Thomas Has UNLV in Top 10
Chris Wood Flashes Immense Talent in Freshman Year
Follow Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) on Twitter for 24/7 Rebels updates.