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Las Vegas Shuffle: Grgurich Gets Offer : College basketball: Sources say former assistant will accept three-year $900,000 deal.

October 21, 1994|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

No, Nevada Las Vegas doesn't have a patent on big-time college-basketball controversy--it only seems that way.

The chaotic events of the last two weeks were seemingly capped Thursday night when UNLV reversed itself and offered former assistant Tim Grgurich a three-year contract to fill the school's vacant coaching position.

School officials declined to release terms of the contract, but sources said UNLV will pay Grgurich, a Seattle SuperSonic assistant, $300,000 per year over three years, including a shoe deal, to succeed the recently ousted Rollie Massimino. Grgurich, who believed he had a deal with UNLV officials Wednesday only to have it taken off the table, will accept the job, sources close to the negotiations said.

Confirmation of the offer came less than 24 hours after Athletic Director Jim Weaver resigned and UNLV interim President Kenny Guinn said negotiations with Grgurich had ended.

The new coach inherits a team that was 15-13 last season, one that doesn't have the talent that used to put UNLV among the nation's elite.

Grgurich, 50, was in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday with the SuperSonics but is expected to return to coach the Runnin' Rebels in practice this afternoon. Neither Grgurich nor his Las Vegas-based attorney, Roy Smith, returned phone calls Thursday night.

Those who know Grgurich describe him as a skilled recruiter, an area in which Massimino did not excel during his rocky two-year tenure at UNLV. Grgurich favors up-tempo basketball, which he learned while serving as one of former coach Jerry Tarkanian's top aides for 12 seasons from 1981-92.

Guinn said as late as Wednesday night that talks with Grgurich had stalled and that he would consider hiring a coach on an interim basis. But on Thursday, dialogue resumed between Guinn and Smith after Guinn's office was deluged with pleas from basketball players and coaches in other sports at UNLV to offer the permanent position to Grgurich.

"They made some very valid points about interim coaches versus permanent coaches," Guinn said.

Weaver resigned late Wednesday because he did not want to recommend Grgurich, and because of pressure he has felt from the community over his involvement in procuring a secret and lucrative supplemental contract for Massimino, sources said. Weaver was said to be worried that Grgurich's link with the former regime would send UNLV back into the problems it encountered with the NCAA under Tarkanian.

Weaver said Wednesday he would leave UNLV by Dec. 31. But Guinn on Thursday persuaded him to stay until June 30.

"Since I resigned, that pulled me out of deciding who would be the coach," Weaver said. "But I want to make it clear I'm not anti-Tim Grgurich. I'm willing to work with whomever President Guinn wants to be coach."

Grgurich told Weaver on Wednesday he wanted to embrace the success of the past and bring back former star players such as Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon to help promote the program, and to do so he would need Tarkanian's support, a friend of Grgurich's said. This was unacceptable to Weaver.

Weaver is currently the subject of a probe by the Nevada Commission on Ethics into his handling of Massimino's contract. He gave testimony Wednesday for almost six hours to the commission in Las Vegas about the supplemental contract that paid Massimino $375,000 a year above his annual base salary of $511,000--the only one approved by the regents.

The commission plans to hold a hearing in early November in Las Vegas. Weaver could be fined if found to be in violation of the ethics code that pertains to state employees, said Nevada Deputy Atty. Gen. Frances Doherty, counsel for the commission.

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