LAS VEGAS — Although Nevada Las Vegas officials say that a deal has not yet been cut to oust beleaguered basketball Coach Rollie Massimino, they indicated Thursday that progress has been made and that an agreement could be completed as early as today.
Athletic Director Jim Weaver acknowledged having met with Massimino briefly Thursday afternoon, but said they had not discussed the possible buyout of Massimino's lucrative and controversial contract. Weaver also said, however, that there had been movement on the issue since Wednesday's talks ended abruptly.
"I'm hopeful, and I know Coach Massimino and (interim President Kenny Guinn) are hopeful that we can come to some kind of an agreement in the very near future," he said. "We all came to the conclusion on Monday that it was in the best interest of Coach Massimino, his family, the team and the university for him not to be the coach at UNLV this year, and that's what we're working on."
Completion of the deal by today would prevent Massimino's coaching the team during its opening practice Saturday, something Weaver would rather avoid.
"Obviously, that's one of my concerns," he said.
Tim Grgurich, former Coach Jerry Tarkanian's top aide for 12 years at UNLV, is believed to be the leading coaching candidate. University officials said they have not been in touch with Grgurich, who is an assistant with the Seattle Supersonics.
Guinn and Weaver spent much of the day trying to quell rumors that the university and Massimino had agreed on a price to terminate the coach's contract.
"Virtually nothing has changed, other than the fact that we're not not talking," Guinn said. "We're still trying to work it out."
Guinn and Weaver seemed more upbeat about resolving the situation than they had after the meeting Wednesday in Weaver's office, which ended within a minute. Massimino quickly turned down what a source said was an offer of about $300,000 for five years for a total package of about $1.5 million.
Massimino, though, appeared strained. When asked if he was still the coach he said, "Quite frankly, I don't know."
One stumbling block in the negotiations appears to be agreement on how much money is owed to Massimino. The longtime coach contends that a secret, supplemental contract he signed--which adds $375,000 a year to his $511,000 annual salary--is valid. Guinn says it is not.
The buyout offer is based only on the $511,000 figure. Guinn said he has made fund-raising attempts in the Las Vegas community to help with the proposed buyout, but has found no interest.
Meanwhile, an outraged Nevada Board of Regents continued to criticize Massimino for turning down UNLV's offer. Lonnie Hammargren said he would support Guinn's firing of Massimino if an agreement can't be reached.
"Personally, I would give him one year's salary and that's it," Hammargren said. "I think (the offer) is way too much. We're going to run him out of this town."
Many apparently share Hammargren's feelings. Weaver said that since speculation began Monday that Massimino was out, the university has been deluged with phone calls from boosters and fans requesting basketball season seats at the Thomas and Mack Center. The requests total almost $450,000.
"We had approximately 35 to 50 calls on Tuesday and 250 calls on Wednesday," he said.
Weaver said the possible financial windfall would not affect any decision regarding Massimino.