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Photo courtesy of LSU Athletics Eric Musselman paces down the sideline as an associate head coach at Louisiana State last season. The two-time National Basketball Association coach is no stranger to Reno, coaching the Bighorns back in 2010.

by Eric Uribe

After interviewing for Nevada’s head coaching vacancy, Eric Musselman rented a car in town and drove three-and-a-half hours to visit his son in Danville, California. Throughout the drive, excitement washed over Musselman. He couldn’t wait to get a phone call back that he’d become the program’s 18th ever head coach.

For a 50-year-old, Musselman is bursting with energy. During his interview for the job, Musselman brought a notebook full of notes on the Wolf Pack and each player on the roster. After getting the job, Musselman handed every player a goal sheet based off their past stats. Less than 24 hours after his introductory press, Musselman was already running a practice with the team.

“I’ve never had more energy, more excitement,” Musselman said. “I’ve coached at every level and I think this is the most excited I’ve ever been to take on a new challenge.”

That’s saying a lot for two-time National Basketball Association coach. Then again, Musselman is deeply rooted with the community and program.

“This Reno community has been a part of my family for a very long time,” he said.

His father, Bill, was the Reno Bighorns head coach during the 1978-1979 season, when Eric was a mere 14 years old. As a high school senior, Musselman visited the Wolf Pack during a recruiting trip. Musselman wanted to play for ex-Nevada head coach Sonny Allen and his high-octane offense. Ultimately, Musselman chose to play at the University of San Diego instead. Ironically, USD has a head coaching vacancy of their own at the moment. Musselman was linked to the job, after all, it was his dream job.

Musselman spent summers after college in San Diego, playing pick-up ball on Saturday mornings and lobbied vigorously behind the scenes for the USD job, according to U-T San Diego newspaper. In the end, Musselman picked the Wolf Pack over his alma mater.

This isn’t Musselman’s first head coaching gig in Reno, either. He served as the Bighorns head coach in 2010-2011, leading the team to a 34-16 record. While there, Musselman coached Jeremy Lin before Linsanity and even Nevada legend Nick Fazekas. Musselman remembers attending the classic football game between Boise State and Nevada at Mackay Stadium in 2010, too.

“It was probably the greatest sporting event I ever went to and attended,” he said, regretting only not bringing a seat cushion to the game.

During Musselman’s introductory press conference, he name-dropped a number of Wolf Pack greats including Fazekas, Edgar Jones, Mo Charlo and Ramon Sessions. In fact, Sessions called Musselman on the phone a mere twenty minutes after his Washington Wizards lost a two-point game on Wednesday, March 25 to congratulate him on the new job.

The charismatic Musselman is also a frequent Twitter user. He posts motivational quotes almost daily — from other coaches ranging from Pat Riley to Tony Dungy — to his almost 15,000 followers. Aside from his 5-foot-7 frame, everything about Musselman screams excitement. Musselman stressed implementing an uptempo offense to the Wolf Pack that takes less than 30 seconds to run that he called “cosmetically-pleasing.”

“We want to play as fast as possible,” Musselman said.

Musselman has all the ingredients to pump life back into the Wolf Pack’s basketball program. Now he just needs to a cook up a winning recipe.

Eric Uribe can be reached at euribe@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.