Billy Bayno, a Massachusetts assistant, was hired Thursday as the third coach in as many years of the troubled Nevada Las Vegas basketball program, once ranked among the nation's elite.
Bayno promised at a news conference announcing his hiring that he would work to return UNLV to the prominence it once held under former coach Jerry Tarkanian.
"The enormous opportunity that presents itself here, to run this program and be the head coach of what was once obviously the greatest basketball program in the country, is a dream," Bayno said.
It is the first head coaching job for Bayno, 32, who served as the graduate assistant under Larry Brown at Kansas and under P.J. Carlesimo at Seton Hall before joining UMass.
Bayno's determination to land the job apparently was the key factor in winning out over a field of six finalists to replace Tim Grgurich, who lasted only five months as the university's coach. Grgurich resigned because of health problems on March 3 as his Rebels limped to a 12-16 record.
"All I looked at was the positives that occurred in the past, the great teams, the great coaches," Bayno said. "I grew up watching UNLV basketball. Every time I watched them play, their hearts and souls were left on the courts. They were the hardest-playing team in the country."
Steve Alford, the sharpshooting guard who helped Indiana to the 1987 NCAA championship and became a successful small-college coach, was hired to coach Southwest Missouri State.
Alford, who coached NCAA Division III Manchester (Ind.) College to a 78-29 mark the past 3 1/2 seasons, at 30 became the second-youngest coach in Division I. Marshall's Billy Donovan is six months younger.
The district attorney's office in Las Cruces, N.M., has joined an investigation of New Mexico State's basketball program that began with allegations of violations of NCAA rules.
District Atty. Greg Valdez said his office has been reviewing the matter during the past three weeks to determine if there was a violation of state laws.
Valdez said New Mexico State police officials briefed him on an investigation into alleged illegal actions by two basketball coaches and three players.
The NCAA probe centers on possible academic fraud involving transfer credits from correspondence courses, according to an NCAA letter to the school's interim president, William Conroy.
The 11th Final Four to cap a 64-team tournament has a veteran field of coaches with an average age of almost 57 and a combined 90 seasons of Division I head coaching experience.
UCLA's Jim Harrick is the lone Final Four rookie among the coaches. Only once (1993) since the tournament went to 64 teams has there not been at least one first-timer among the coaches.