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July 3, 2013

Simon a perfect fit

Score another major recruiting catch for Dave Rice and the UNLV Runnin' Rebels basketball program.

No, this wasn't a 16-year old with unlimited potential on the perimeter or a 7-foot giant ready to make an impact in the paint. It was former Findlay Prep head coach and now UNLV assistant coach, Todd Simon.

Of all the potential candidates bandied about, Simon fits all the criteria that was needed in this all important hire.

Whether or not outsiders think this wasn't the right hire due to Simon's ripe age of 32 and the fact that he doesn't have the amount of experience that some were expecting this hire to have, he is precisely what Rice and the Rebels were looking for.

This wasn't about X's and O's and finding a basketball mind the likes of Tim Grgurich or Tex Winter. In fact, this was a fairly calculated maneuver to bring into the program someone with attributes that not many coaches around the country currently have.

Simon has it.

Looking back at last year and the problems that came along with it, it's easy to come to the conclusion that not all the players at UNLV were on the same page. Physically, the 2012-13 Rebels were gifted. Athletically, they were above the majority of teams they opposed.

What they were lacking was a way to stay together and play as a single unit for longer stretches than five minutes here and five minutes there.

The NBA also seemed to be on most of the Rebels' minds. What do they do to get there and what must they do to help their stock in front of the scouts? Those seemed to be the types of thoughts running through a number of the UNLV roster.

Well, guess what? As long as Rice continues to recruit at the level that he's shown in the first two years on the job, similar scenarios are going to arrive.

And that's where Simon comes in. No one knows what's in these superstar types heads better than Simon. He spent the last seven years of his basketball life surrounded by and coaching some of the best high school basketball had to offer, and he was quite effective doing it.

Simon is going to be a heck of a recruiter for the Rebels. That's almost a given considering the amount of quality contacts and relationships he's built over the years.

It's the added dimension of being so familiar with what the elite high school and college level basketball player has going through their heads that makes this hire a slam dunk.

You can say that coaching a bunch of elite prospects at Findlay is a piece of cake. You just throw out the ball and watch them go. I don't buy that notion one bit. Throughout the years, Simon did an amazing job of getting the Findlay players to buy into what he was teaching. That's what made the program the best in the country.

If people don't believe that Findlay players didn't question why they weren't starting or getting more playing time, they are off their rockers. Simon was one of the biggest reasons why those teams always seemed to be so coherent and in synch, which is exactly what Rice needed from an assistant.

There's a reason why quality head coaches like Larry Brown and Buzz Williams came knocking at Simon's door before Rice did, and it wasn't all because Simon could bring Player A and Player B.

Simon has the "it" factor that major programs need in order to reach and stick at that elite level.

UNLV now has a better chance of reaching that level because of this decision.



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