Speculation about Wolf Pack’s second-year coach to escalate this weekend
My Twitter audience is resilient.
It puts up with bad jokes. It tolerates far too many Seattle sports references. And every Thursday, it is witness to the same Tweet.
In one way or another, I’ll ask for questions for the following afternoon’s radio show. Sometimes an unrelated gif is attached. I went with ‘Bring it On’ two weeks ago.
Some (most) responses would not be filed in the ‘serious’ folder.
“Is a hot dog a sandwich?”
“Who is the Mountain West coach you most want to fight?”
“Could you beat Tom Brady’s combine 40 (time)?”
“Who do you think is the favorite to win The Bachelor?”
“Do you want to be Reed’s new varsity cheer coach?” That one was hard to turn down.
The other constant has surrounded the future of the Nevada basketball program that will play in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night for the first time since 2007 and just the seventh time ever. Nevada, a 12 seed, drew Big 12 Tournament champ Iowa State in Milwaukee.
“You really think he leaves this year?”
“How long do you think (he) stays at Nevada?”
As soon as the Wolf Pack’s tournament run nears an imminent finish, whether it’s Thursday night against a similar Cyclones team, or after a Cinderella-esque run, the question will loom over the program like the sun hangs over eastern Nevada desert in July.
Is second-year coach Eric Musselman leaving?
It’s likely he doesn’t even know the answer to that question while focusing on his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach.
His name has already been connected to the opening at LSU, where he was an assistant before coming to Nevada, and a potential opening at Cal. The list of programs reportedly interested in Musselman will only lengthen.
Power five programs in need of a coach with much larger checking accounts would be foolish not to inquire.
Musselman took over a program that won nine games in the 2014-15 season and needed just two seasons to take it back to the NCAA Tournament. In the sandwich season, he led to Nevada to the CBI championship, its first ever national postseason tournament title.
Nevada’s second-year coach was asked about the possible distraction of his potential departure following Saturday’s 79-71 win over Colorado State to claim the program’s first ever Mountain West Tournament title.
“There's nothing going on with me,” he said. “I'm happy and my wife is happy. My sons are happy. President Johnson and Doug Knuth gave me an opportunity when no one else would, and trusted in our vision.
“So, our guys haven't said anything and we have more than an open policy where our guys talk to me about everything. And I don't think it's affected us at all. And it shouldn't. I'm happy I get to drive over and watch my son play high school basketball. My other son can jump on a flight and see me in 45 minutes. And my wife is involved, and she does too much, actually, in the community.”
The family aspect is significant. This is a someone who took a few years off after coaching in the NBA simply to be a father. It’s probably not a matter of chance that as his personal life has rounded into form, so too has his career as a college basketball head coach.
Geographically speaking, he would be even closer to both sons in Berkley. And he would be making significantly more than his current $400,000 salary. Though that number will likely raise significantly if he sticks around for a third season.
The question then becomes, what does he prioritize?
The hardwood directly in front of Nevada’s bench in Lawlor Events Center would painfully reveal he values winning. The surface was replaced last offseason, and at the very minimum, may need a new layer of varnish after a season of Musselman’s echoing stomps.
He’s proven he can win at the Mountain West level in just two short years. That likely isn’t enough to keep him in Reno. Can he compete on the national level?
We’re about to find out.
For Nevada basketball, there is more at stake in Milwaukee than busting brackets.