Musselman coaches in eye of hurricane
April 7, 2017
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Most coaches preach the benefits of stability and calm. Eric Musselman, it seems, coaches in the eye of a hurricane. Is he going or is he staying? How many of his assistants are going to leave this year? Is his star player going to leave for the NBA? Which players are going to leave the program, quit the team or be suspended? Nothing, it appears, has stayed the same around Musselman during his two seasons at Nevada for more than five minutes. The winds of change picked up again in recent weeks with the departure of assistants Dave Rice and Yanni Hufnagel and freshman guard Devearl Ramsey. That makes five of six Musselman assistants who have left the program after just one year. Ramsey is the sixth scholarship player to leave with eligibility remaining. Actually there is one thing that stays the same with Musselman. Winning. In fact, the more things change, the more Musselman seems to win.
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Musselman operates the Wolf Pack as if he is building a D-League or CBA team. He has one roster of players and coaches currently sitting in his locker room, one roster that is coming in soon and one roster that has just left. He has an uncanny ability to focus on the task at hand and also keep an eye on what things will look like a year or two in the future. There are NBA general managers that don't make as many transactions as Musselman in a typical off season. It is not legal to actually trade players or buy free agents in college basketball but that is what Musselman has basically done at Nevada. Nobody works the phones and molds a roster of coaches and players like Musselman. All those years in the NBA and pro basketball's minor leagues have made Musselman unique in college basketball.
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One of the biggest free agents on college basketball's open market right now is former New Mexico guard Elijah Brown. The 6-foot-4 guard, the son of Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, announced recently that he would leave New Mexico and join another program as a graduate transfer. Brown, who averaged about 20 points a game the last two seasons at New Mexico, is the type of player that could get the Pack to the Final Four. It's doubtful he intends to leave New Mexico for another Mountain West program. He is rumored to be looking at UCLA and coach Steve Alford. But Brown's former coach at New Mexico, Craig Neal, played for Musselman two decades ago in the CBA. And Musselman and Brown's father must have at least mutual friends in the NBA. Neal also has strong ties to UCLA as a close friend of UCLA coach Steve Alford but Musselman has been known to work his magic before.
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Imagine Brown on the floor with Cam Oliver, Lindsey Drew, Jordan Caroline and either Caleb or Cody Martin. Josh Hall, Hallice Cooke, Leland King, Kendall Stephens and possibly Elijah Foster would be on the bench. It would be the deepest and most talented team in Wolf Pack history. Maybe this is why Musselman didn't pursue the California job with more intensity. His Wolf Pack next year would beat Cal by 15.
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Expect Oliver to be back with the Pack next year. It is looking more and more likely, with each new announcement of an underclassmen joining the NBA's pre-draft party, that Oliver won't become a first-round pick in June. This draft is becoming deeper by the day and it will be difficult for a player like Oliver, who plays in a mediocre conference and has not been tested against top competition, to slip into the first round. At 6-foot-8, he is also not unique enough and doesn't have a clear position in the NBA. Another year in college would benefit him immensely. He could put on 10-15 pounds of muscle, improve his overall game (namely defense and post moves) and he could also receive tremendous exposure by a long NCAA tournament run. He could turn into a lottery pick next year.
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Get ready for some long and cold nights at Mackay Stadium this fall. The Wolf Pack football program will have seven games televised on either the ESPN networks or CBS Sports. Just three of the start times have been announced but they are all either 6:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. More late night starts are sure to come. ESPN treats the Mountain West like its just another late night infomercial so expect the vast majority of Pack games to push midnight up against this year especially with the Pack's new pass-happy offense. Wolf Pack tradition used to be fall afternoons at Mackay Stadium. Tailgating in the morning before the game and a trip to a local watering hole or restaurant after the game. That tradition is over. Television dictates college football's traditions now.
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The Wolf Pack's football game against UNLV continues to get absolutely zero respect from ESPN or CBS Sports. Once again the Mountain West's two major television partners are passing on what is arguably the best rivalry in the Mountain West, a conference that is starved for legitimate rivalries. The only school the Mountain West seems to care for and protect is Boise State. Each Mountain West team (except Hawaii, which is a football-only member) gets $1.1 million from the conference's football TV deal. Boise State, though, gets an extra $1.8 million from ESPN as an incentive to stay in the Mountain West. ESPN has chosen this season to televise such amazing rivalries steeped in tradition as Troy and New Mexico at Boise State rather than UNLV at Nevada.