Brian Dutcher thinks T.J. Otzelberger will turn UNLV into a winner

Count Brian Dutcher as a supporter of the T.J. Otzelberger era. Despite a laborious second season, the head coach of San Diego State thinks Otzelberger will work out at UNLV. 

“I think you got to have continuity. If given enough time, T.J. will get it done. It’s not an overnight process,” Dutcher said on ESPN Las Vegas this morning. 

Dutcher and San Diego State are a terrific example of continuity. He was an assistant under Steve Fisher in San Diego from 1999 until Fisher retired in 2017. The Aztecs simply handed the program over to Dutcher, who has continued Fisher’s success. 

The Aztecs are the model program of the Mountain West, making Dutcher’s point about continuity a strong one. 

“People are so quick to say, ‘Well we haven’t had the success we want in two years. If we don’t have it in the third year, that’s it.’ You don’t even get your freshman class to their senior year and they are already looking to move coaches,” Dutcher said.

it is an interesting timeline laid out by Dutcher. First on the UNLV side, Marvin Menzies was fired after his third season. He did not get to see out his first couple of recruiting classes to the end. 

Now, Otzelberger finds himself in a similar situation, as he will head into his third year without coming close to the NCAA Tournament (barring a run to the conference title next week). 

But Fisher and Dutcher turned the Aztecs around by their third year. San Diego State was 4-22 the year before Fisher arrived. They improved to 5-23 the following season. But in Fisher’s third season the Aztecs went to the NCAA Tournament. And from that year on they went to the NCAA Tournament or NIT in 12 of the next 15 seasons before Fisher retired. 

Constant turnover has plagued UNLV over the last decade, from the roster to the head coaching spot all the way up to the president of the university. 

But turnover exists because the program has lacked success on the court. No one wants to continue to lose.

If anyone had shown a consistent ability to win, the turnover would have stopped. (Unless of course a bigger school came to poach a successful coach.)

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