by Eric Uribe
I don’t care what anyone says, it’s hard to win when you lose your leading scorer who was a senior, then you lose your second leading scorer to a transfer, have to build your team around players that are inexperienced and what maybe one senior.”
That’s what former Nevada point guard Deonte Burton had to say on Twitter after the Wolf Pack was routed by UNLV in the Mountain West Tournament, before news broke out about the firing of head coach David Carter.
Burton’s words hit to a T. This was a rebuilding year for the Wolf Pack and anyone who thought otherwise was kidding themselves.
Nevada played a mere two seniors — Michael Perez and Ronnie Stevens — this year, and both faced nagging injuries. The Wolf Pack used ten different starting lineups throughout the season. The lone player with more than two years of experience with the team was Marqueze Coleman.
What did you expect? Don’t get me wrong, a 9-22 season and 10th-place league finish is bad. However, this team had no realistic chance at competing for a MWC championship.
Carter was priming the program for a run in 2016. In many ways, it was a parallel of the 2010-2011 squad Carter led in only his second season. That team featured a young Burton, among six freshmen. The Wolf Pack went 13-19 that season.
What happened the following season? Nevada finished 28-7 — second most in school history — and won an outright Western Athletic Conference regular season title.
Obviously, next year’s team won’t have an all-time great player as it did in Burton and the MWC is a different animal than the WAC, but you get the night-and-day improvement.
In 2016, the Wolf Pack will return its five leading scorers from this season. Moreover, Carter would’ve had two scholarships to give out. This team is a stretch shooter away from competing in this league.
Instead, Carter is gone and a new coach will be tasked with rebuilding the program, again. There will be some collateral losses, depending on the coaches’ philosophy.
I get Doug Knuth’s decision to buy out Carter. Fan support was in the gutters as attendance hovered most of the season at around 5,000 people per game — under half of Lawlor Events Center’s capacity. Bringing back Carter wouldn’t pump life into a dying fan base next season, not at first, at least.
The only long-term solution to putting butts in the seats is winning and Carter had a blueprint for achieving that next season.
Carter’s track record proves he can win. His 2011-12 team has been the school’s most successful team in any sport while I’ve been a student here the past four years. His 2013-14 team that finished third in the MWC is the highest any Wolf Pack program has placed since joining the conference in 2012.
Carter deserved one more season at Nevada. While that opinion isn’t shared by many around the community, Burton co-signs it as well.
“Coach Carter was the best coach I ever played for! He is a great guy and, aside from my dad, taught me how to be a man and a better person. I don’t agree on what happened, but even before the rings, Phil Jackson got fired and looked what he accomplished! So keep ya head up coach.”
Eric Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.