Eric Musselman had the unenviable task of succeeding Rick Adelman, who had guided Kings to eight consecutive playoff appearances. His stay in Sacramento, not surprisingly, lasted just one season.
But Musselman, who was introduced as the head coach of the Nevada Wolf Pack on Thursday, was a master at maintaining relationships with basketball types throughout northern California. A journeyman in the Larry Brown mold – he’s moved often and has succeeded at several levels – Mussleman always hoped to circle back toward the West Coast, where his sons live and his wife’s broadcasting career flourished.
Though only 50, Musselman has coached the Kings and the Golden State Warriors (2002-04), teams in the defunct Continental Basketball Association (CBA), NBA Developmental League franchises in Los Angeles and Reno (a Kings affiliate) and national teams in Central and South America. Most recently, he was an assistant at Arizona State and LSU.
While there was some pressure on the Nevada administration to consider Reno Bighorns coach Dave Arsenault for the vacancy created when David Carter was fired, the man known as “Muss” was selected from a list of candidates that included San Diego State assistant Justin Hutson and former UTEP and Auburn coach Tony Barbee. Musselman also rejected overtures from his alma mater, the University of San Diego.
“They need some energy and enthusiasm and knowledge, and he has all that,” said former Wolfpack and Monarchs coach Sonny Allen, who years ago unsuccessfully recruited Musselman to his Nevada program. “And nobody will outwork him. I think this was a great hire.”
Though this is Musselman’s first venture as a college head coach, his entry into the northern California recruiting scene will reverberate throughout the region. An intense, relentless recruiter, he intends to pursue the region’s best players.
“In the NBA, you can only win with horses,” Musselman said, “so the drive for me is to recruit, put 100 percent into recruiting. The lifeblood of our program is going to be recruiting. We have what we need to win here. I can tell you that. All we need is two buckets, and 94 feet, and we’re ready to rock and roll.”
So Musselman got his wish. He came back West and, very quickly, regional college basketball suddenly became more interesting.
Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.