Dave Rice has been fired as the UNLV head coach, sources told NBCSports.com.
The Runnin’ Rebels have lost five of their last six games, including three straight to begin league play. All three of those Mountain West losses have come to teams expected to finish in the bottom of the league standings, and all three were by a single-possession. On Saturday, in a loss at Wyoming, the Rebels blew a 17-point first half lead with the nation’s third-leading scorer, Josh Adams, had just 12 points.
Rice, who played with Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony at UNLV, is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Rebels. He reached the Round of 64 in his first two years with the program, but missed on the tournament the last two seasons. In 2014-15, Rice led UNLV to a 18-15 record and an 8-10 finish in the MWC, good for seventh place.
Todd Simon, a current assistant coach on the staff, will be named the interim head coach.
Rice brought in a talented 2015 recruiting class, headlined by local product and five-star recruit Stephen Zimmerman, but he’s been unable to find a way to get Zimmerman heavily involved in the offense.
UNLV does have the talent to make some noise this season. Zimmerman is one of the nation’s most talented big men while Patrick McCaw, the team’s leading scorer, is a potential NBA player on the wing. Throw in a handful of veteran guards, former five-star recruit Dwayne Morgan and redshirt junior big man Ben Carter, and there are pieces on this roster.
But it may be too late for this team to do anything other than run the table and earn their league’s automatic bid.