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UNLV alum Dave Rice out as Rebels coach amid winless league start

Coach Dave Rice and UNLV have parted ways, the school announced Sunday night.

Rice, 47, went to the NCAA tournament in his first two seasons but did not make the postseason the past two. The move comes after the Rebels (9-7) lost five of six and started 0-3 in Mountain West play.

According to a source, Rice was informed of his firing earlier Sunday. He met with the team at 5 p.m. PT to let the players know of his dismissal.

"Earlier today, I met with Dave Rice, and after discussing the direction of our season, we mutually agreed that it was time for a change," athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in a statement. "He will always be a cherished member of the Runnin' Rebel family, and we are grateful for all he has done for this program. However, being winless in conference play and losing five of the last six games is simply not good enough for Runnin' Rebel basketball."

UNLV assistant coach Todd Simon, in his third year on staff, will replace Rice on an interim basis.

One name already in the mix for the permanent job, per multiple sources, is former NBA coach Mike Brown, who compiled a 347-216 record in eight NBA seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Sources told ESPN that Brown has plenty of support among UNLV boosters.

Rice is a UNLV alum who replaced Lon Kruger in 2011 after Kruger left to go to Oklahoma. Rice was 51-19 over his first two seasons but was just 38-28 overall and 18-18 in league play the past two seasons.

"I am particularly proud of our accomplishments, not only on the court but also academically and in recruiting," Rice said. "It has been a great honor to coach at my alma mater, and I wish the players, the coaches, the University, the program and the fans the very best as they move forward."

Rice was under pressure after not making the postseason the past two seasons. He leaves his first head-coaching job with a 98-54 record. Rice was signed to a two-year extension by Kunzer-Murphy after 2014, when South Florida offered him the head-coaching job.

A year ago, Rice & Co. welcomed a trio of top-50 players: Rashad Vaughn (No. 19 in the ESPN 100), Goodluck Okonoboh (26) and Dwayne Morgan (39). Vaughn bolted for the NBA after one season, Okonoboh transferred earlier this season, and Morgan is averaging 4.1 points and 4.6 boards thus far this season.

UNLV got elite freshmen Stephen Zimmerman and Derrick Jones this season. Zimmerman was ranked 12th and Jones 30th. Zimmerman has been solid this season and has battled injuries but ranks sixth on the team in field goal attempts. Jones is averaging 9.5 points.

UNLV next plays Tuesday against New Mexico.