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Mid-Major Morning Mashups: Larry Brown In Talks With UNLV, Or Is He Edition

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Yesterday began with the focus of the college basketball world on the final day of play at the Portsmouth Invitational - one final opportunity for seniors with NBA aspirations to show their skills in a five-on-five setting. By late afternoon the spotlight had swung to Sin City.

UNLV has already been making waves as of late in their search for Lon Kruger's replacement as head coach, but those waves began cresting with even more force when a Sports Illustrated report claimed that the Rebels have been in contact with 70-year-old Larry Brown in regards to taking over the program, reports that were later confirmed by the coach himself. Brown has been out of basketball since his tenure with the Charlotte Bobcats came to an end in December 2010, but owns the distinction of being the only coach to win a national championship and an NBA title. Of course, the last time he was in the college ranks was 1989 when he led Danny Manning and the Kansas Jayhawks to the national title.

This alone makes for an interesting turn of events in the UNLV coaching search - but it gets better. A few hours after the initial reports UNLV President Neal Smatresk denied these reports, claiming he hadn't heard of the discussions. If what Smatresk says is true however, we should know who the Rebels new head man will be today, as the team is expected to make an announcement.

Sam Amick of "When Larry Brown was fired as head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats in late December, it was immediately clear that he didn't want his storied career to end on Michael Jordan's chopping block. More than three months later, Brown, 70, is hoping against hope that his return takes place at UNLV. Two sources close to Brown said he has been in contact with Runnin' Rebels athletic director Jim Livengood as recently as Wednesday about the position and is expecting to hear back soon, although his chances appear slim unless the process continues to stall. When reached by phone, Brown confirmed the contact with UNLV but declined to comment further. Livengood has said publicly that he expects to choose between BYU associate head coach Dave Rice, former Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus (now a Minnesota Timberwolves assistant), St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap and former Oregon coach Ernie Kent -- all of whom have interviewed for the position. Rice and Theus are widely considered the finalists, but the sources said Brown's best bet at landing the position would come by way of the school's boosters. With Livengood believed to be leaning toward Rice and school president Neal Smatresk said to be backing Theus, there are boosters who are intrigued by the idea of adding a coach whose pedigree dwarfs that duo. Sources said Kentucky coach John Calipari called Livengood on Brown's behalf as well."

Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "UNLV president Neal Smatresk shot down reports today that Larry Brown is a candidate to be the Rebels' basketball coach. Brown, the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship, was fired as coach of the Charlotte Bobcats in December after a 9-19 start this season. and ESPN are reporting Brown has been in contact with UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood, who announced four finalists for the position Tuesday. Former Rebels players Dave Rice and Reggie Theus are considered the leading candidates. Smatresk, who is talking daily with Livengood, dismissed Brown as a candidate. "That's the first I've heard of it," Smatresk said. "We just interviewed four people and I'm unaware that any names have been added to the list." Smatresk said a decision on the hire is coming Sunday."

Chris Dortch of "Clark was suspended last season by Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, but instead of taking the easy way out and transferring, he hung in there. Good thing, too. This year, Everhart surrounded Clark with players who could help him reach his potential. "Clark's a deadly shooter when he gets hot," said Chris DiSano, who runs the website and is an Atlantic 10 expert. "Last year, he went through a streak where he hit three 3-pointers in a month and a half. He went ice cold. This year, Duquesne brought in two freshmen guards that knew how to find him. [Duquense led Division I is assists]. Once he's able to find his spot and guys are able to deliver him the ball, he can be a knockdown shooter." Clark proved as much in a PIT game when he scored 19 points with his first seven shots. "He made five in a row," Ryan said, "and the first four didn't even touch the rim. Big-time shooter." Clark, who finished his career as Duquesne's 10th all-time leading rebounder, isn't one-dimensional, which can only help his chances. In the same PIT game where he went crazy from three (5-of-6), he also grabbed five rebounds and handed out two assists."

Melinda Waldrop of the Daily News: "Frank Hassell didn't spend a lot of time contemplating his decision to play in the 59th Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. "I was told that this is a job interview and it's a privilege and an honor to be invited here," said Hassell, who averaged 15.1 points and 9.4 rebounds in his senior season at Old Dominion and had 15 rebounds in his PIT debut Wednesday for the K&D Round's Landscaping team. "These guys in the stands, I want to work for them one day. It's hard to understand why somebody would turn it down." Lots of somebodys did this year, however. Along with injured players, or those whose seasons lasted into April -- Butler's Matt Howard and VCU's Jamie Skeen are among the original tournament commitments who fit both categories -- there were quite a few other no-shows at the annual showcase for college seniors trying to impress pro scouts."

The Portsmouth Invitational concluded last night in Virginia with K&D Round Landscaping downing Cherry, Bekaert & Holland in a torrid shooting effort, 110-93. The champs got a big effort from Old Dominion's Frank Hassell who recorded the only double-double of the game with an 18-point, 12-rebound performance. In other action from the day, Duquesne's Bill Clark and BU's Bill Clark each netted 17 points in a losing effort by their Portsmouth Sports Club squad. 

Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "Xavier freshmen Jay Canty and Jordan Latham are leaving the men's basketball program, the school announced today. "We appreciate the efforts on and off the floor that both Jay and Jordan made in their time at Xavier," coach Chris Mack said in a release. "We wish each of them the best as they move forward in their college careers." Latham, a 6-8 forward from Baltimore, Md., played in 16 games as a freshman, averaging 0.5 points and 0.8 rebounds in 4.8 minutes per game. He missed three games with the team down the stretch (Charlotte, St. Louis, and the game against Dayton in the A-10 Tournament) because Mack said he needed to take care of obligations as a student athlete. Canty, a 6-6 guard/forward from Jamestown, N.C., played in 17 games as a freshman, averaging 1.5 points and 0.8 rebounds in 7.4 minutes per game. He was sidelined with a stress fracture in his right foot for 12 games during his rookie campaign."