LAS VEGAS (AP) — Marvin Menzies took over a UNLV program in disarray and made some headway, luring some of the nation’s top recruits to the desert.
When he couldn’t win consistently enough or energize the fan base of a once-proud program, the school decided to go in a different direction.
UNLV fired Menzies on Friday after three seasons and a first-round exit from the Mountain West Conference tournament, ending a tenure with small successes but no major leaps.
“If I’m not confident in where we’re headed, we need to make a change,” UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said.
Menzies was hired in 2016 to replace Dave Rice and hopefully get UNLV back to the NCAA Tournament for first time since 2013. He was the first full-time African American coach to lead the program.
UNLV initially offered the job to Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, who turned it down. Chris Beard took the job, but left for Texas Tech after a month.
Menzies, the former New Mexico State coach, was able to bring in some of the nation’s top recruits, but couldn’t win consistently.
The Runnin’ Rebels finished 17-14 this season and were bounced from the Mountain West tournament in the first round by San Diego State. Menzies was 48-48 at UNLV.
UNLV also struggled to generate even a small portion of the excitement the program once had in Las Vegas, with small crowds dotting the massive Thomas & Mack Center.
“I want someone who knows what success looks like,” Reed-Francois said. “Someone who is relentlessly committed. Basketball is in their blood. Figuring out how to run this program and be a part of this community.”
Menzies had success at New Mexico State, leading the Aggies to NCAA Tournament five times in nine seasons.
UNLV went 11-21 after Menzies scrambled to pull together his first recruiting class. With more time to recruit, Menzies had one of the nation’s top recruiting classes for his second season, highlighted by McDonald’s All-American Brandon McCoy, and won 20 games.
UNLV was not able to sustain its climb this season, finishing fourth in the Mountain West.