The blame game: UNLV’s wild hoops carousel has fans looking for scapegoats

Adam Candee

Blame Chris Beard! Blame Tina Kunzer-Murphy! Blame Len Jessup! Blame everyone on that meddling Nevada Board of Regents! Better yet, don’t. Stop looking for someone to fault for UNLV losing its basketball coach before anyone could tell him he’s no Tark. Blame only lubricates the ceaseless gears of social media and talk radio, and no one fits the villain role here.

While sports fandom hinges on our unalienable right to say who messed up and how, what took place with Beard reads as serendipity screwing the Rebels. Beard ditched Las Vegas for Lubbock, Texas, after less than two weeks for twice the salary, a superior roster and a better conference. His young daughters also live near Texas Tech, where he spent 10 years as an assistant coach. His agent negotiated a buyout clause in his UNLV contract to cover this exact situation.

Spare the kind of talk—of Beard’s lack of ethics and integrity—some on Rebel message boards have spouted. Beard will earn more than $2 million annually at Texas Tech because, despite the mirage of amateurism the NCAA fosters, this is business way more than it is sports. Shake your fist at the timing, but be honest: You would do exactly what Beard did.

If we don’t blame him for taking our basketball and going home, whose head slides onto the platter? UNLV needs a coach because its administration fired Dave Rice in January, so fans come next for Kunzer-Murphy, the athletics director, and Jessup, the president. That makes as little sense as condemning Beard. Kunzer-Murphy and Jessup aimed high by targeting accomplished coach Mick Cronin of Cincinnati, and nearly lured him. They moved on to the up-and-comer in Beard and pushed his requested buyout to $1 million to cover themselves.

The administration handed Beard’s contract to the Regents for approval, and you could understand if he paused when they dissected it like a frog in biology lab. But before pinning this on the Regents, ask yourself if that $2 million a year in Lubbock would have looked any less tasty had they voted a unanimous “yes” and all gone out for ice cream.

Ex-New Mexico State man Marvin Menzies now coaches UNLV basketball, a program Kunzer-Murphy called “fractured.” Venom toward what preceded him won’t make the Rebels any better in 2016, and it won’t bring you George Karl, either.

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