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John L Smith: UNLV's Coaching Carousel Could Impact Future Of Basketball

Marvin Menzies is out. 

That was UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois' announcement when she said she didn't have "confidence in the future of the program." 

Menzies had two years left on his contract, and the university will have to pay the $800,000 owed on its remainder. Now the search is on -- again -- for a UNLV men's basketball coach. 

John L. Smith remembers the heyday of the Jerry Tarkanian years but he pointed out that the number of people in town who do remember is dwindling.

“You tend to forget because the town has grown so much that there is still this very much impassioned group that loves their Rebels basketball and really wants the Rebels to win and I suspect win at all costs," he said. 

Smith ran into that impassioned group when he tweeted about Menzies dismissal. Smith pointed out that UNLV is still paying for the firing of Coach Dave Rice in 2016. 

He said Rice was loyal to the program, had a lot going for him, and he won games than Menzies did. Smith said some people in on social media appreciated his observations -others did not.

“Then the other side was heard from and they, of course, were calling Dave Rice all names unprintable and saying he was a terrible coach," he said.

As for Menzie's fate, Smith said when it comes to Rebel basketball you have to win.

Support comes from

“Around Las Vegas and the basketball program if you don’t win a lot of games, then you are immediately suspect. Menzies started slowly. His first team I think won 11 games out of 32,” he said.

Smith is not sure if Coach Menzie's understood how serious some of the program's boosters are and the kind of influence they can wield, "unfair influence in my opinion," he said.

Beyond the backlash to Smith's Twitter comments, the social media reaction to Menzie's firing hasn't been positive, but Smith said its also not as overwhelming as it might have been 

“I think the town is changing," he said, "You’ve got professional sports here in the form of the Golden Knights. You’ve got professional sports coming with the Raiders in 2020. So, this is a different city than it was back in the day.”

The big question for many Rebel fans is the future of the program and whether Menzies' dismissal will make it more difficult to find another coach.

“It has to. Coaches are opportunists. They want to go where the can make the most money and have the most opportunity to win and at the college level the most opportunity to recruit because if you don’t recruit well you are not going to win basketball games at a high level,” Smith said.

Smith said UNLV is not the winning program it was 10 years ago and doesn't have the top salary that other programs have. He said it is likely that the job will attract talent but not the top talent because they're already running programs and getting paid millions a year.

Audit of the Marijuana Industry

A recent audit of the state Department of Taxation and its oversight of the marijuana industry found about $500,000 worth of discrepancies. 

 “I think what we’ve got is we’re essentially in boom times for legalization of marijuana. There are clearly the businesses outrunning the regulation," Smith said.

The audit showed that some marijuana businesses didn't fill out forms properly and some cases didn't fill out the form at all.

“You’ve got people that are so busy making money that they’re not following the rules," he said.

Smith said the problems remind him of the early days of legalized gaming. The casino industry was growing fast and making money while lawmakers were still working out how to regulate it all.

The problem is the appearance of problems. 

“The last thing they want to do is look like scofflaws," he said.

Smith said with controversy and stigma still surrounding the industry any problems could hurt the image of the emerging industry. He said the best thing those in the industry could do is prove that they're minding their own stores. 

If they don't show that they're following all the regulations, it will bring more scrutiny from the media and lawmakers, he said.

Guests

John L Smith, KNPR contributor 

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