The UNLV Rebels fired head coach Marvin Menzies after only three seasons with the program.
Basically, they gave a previously successful coach just enough time so an athletic department could release a haphazard reason for the termination.
“If I’m not confident in where we’re headed, we need to make a change,” UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said.
“I want someone who knows what success looks like. Someone who is relentlessly committed. Basketball is in their blood. Figuring out how to run this program and be a part of this community.”
The person the AD is looking for sounds awfully similar to Menzies.
It probably didn’t help Menzies that he was — rather publicly known — not the first choice for the job. He landed the UNLV gig after Chris Beard left his post with the program a few weeks after taking it, leaving the Rebels hanging dry to take the Texas Tech Red Raiders opening.
A great move for Beard, a spectacular hiring for Texas Tech, and Menzies should have been seen as an incredible consolation prize by UNLV. Knowing what we know now, that the Rebels were only going to give him three seasons to prove himself, the school clearly failed to view him through such a positive lens.
Prior to joining UNLV, Menzies had a tremendous situation going with the New Mexico State Aggies. In nine seasons with New Mexico State, he won 198 games (winning 64 percent of all games) and took the Aggies to five NCAA Tournaments. That’s an abundance of trips to the Big Dance, especially when considering he was operating within the confines of a one-bid league.
Given that previous history, it’s unsettling UNLV’s reasoning — at least partially — for the firing is that the school wants a person who knows what success looks like. It seems like unnecessary shade, even if not on purpose, was hurled toward his direction. Menzies does, literally, know success. He breeds it. Furthermore, his ability to taste success comes at roughly the same rate as the university that just fired him.
During the same nine years Marvin Menzies was dominating the WAC, UNLV was doing fine with Lon Kruger and Dave Rice. Kruger took them to three NCAA Tournament trips when Menzies first started with New Mexico State, then Rice managed to take the Rebels to two more.
Admittedly, not exactly a mathematician here, but that’s five appearances in the NCAA Tournament between two head coaches from 2007-08 through 2016 (when Menzies was hired). That’s exactly what Menzies did at a program with fewer resources… and now the university is too good for him after just three seasons?
What makes this firing even less tolerable is that Menzies was rolling in all the right areas. The ones that highlight a program trending in a positive direction. After struggling in year-one with UNLV, a normal transition period for most head coaches, he won 20 games last season and 17 more in the 2018-19 campaign.
Is UNLV such a prestigious job that averaging 18.5 wins per season over the course of two years warrants a coach’s firing?
This conversation doesn’t end with a question, either.
In 2017, Menzies brought in the top rated Mountain West recruiting class to UNLV. One recruiting class later, in 2018, only Nevada had a higher rated group of incoming talent.
Let us not forget that this season’s version of the Rebels were relatively young. A couple of seniors certainly playing important roles; though a bunch of freshmen and sophomores carried a huge burden as well. Meaning, you know, the 17 wins they had this season gave reason to believe the 2019-20 voyage would offer the program more promise.
Nearly everything appeared to be trending upward. And yet, UNLV fired Menzies.
It feels like, at least from an outsider’s perspective, the Rebels fired him after three seasons only because they knew they’d be unable to after next year. They wanted him gone for the sake of moving on before they couldn’t.
Boo this firing. Send it to the moon. Hurl the reasoning for it, maybe purposely (or not) being dismissive toward Marvin Menzies in the process, right into the sun.
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared on a now defunct website owned by the author.
Joseph Nardone has been covering college basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
Be sure to follow the ClutchPoints NCAA Facebook page for more great college basketball discussion.