CSUS picks coach fired by troubled program

TURLOCK — Larry Reynolds, whose last coaching position resulted in an NCAA Tournament appearance and subsequent probation for the Cal State Long Beach basketball program, has accepted the head coaching job at CSU, Stanislaus.

James Blake, a former California State University, Stanislaus, and Northridge assistant coach and the other finalist for the job, said he was told Tuesday by Stanislaus Athletic Director Milt Richards that Reynolds had been offered the position.

Richards, when reached by phone Thursday evening, said he was in a meeting and unable to comment but would call back. He did not call and did not return subsequent calls.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram confirmed that Reynolds had accepted Stanislaus' offer and was assembling a coaching staff.

The offer to Reynolds went against the recommendation of two screening committees, totaling nine Stanislaus staff members and program boosters, pulled together by Richards to recommend one of two finalists to university President Hamid Shirvani. According to a committee member, Blake was the unanimous choice of both groups.

"I thought the hiring of Reynolds would cast a black eye on the program," said one committee member who asked not to be identified.

Reynolds, 55, led Division II CSU, San Bernardino, a conference rival of Stanislaus, to a 110-35 record from 1997-02. His success led to his hiring at Long Beach in 2002.

His five-year record at Long Beach was 63-83, and his 2007 team won the Big West Conference Tournament, which came with an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, the school's first in 12 years.

The 49ers lost 121-86 to Tennessee, and Reynolds — seeking a contract extension — was fired. At the time, Long Beach Athletic Director Vic Cegles said Reynolds had not built a foundation "to ensure long-term success." But Cegles had started an in-house investigation into allegations of illegal recruiting activity before the 2005-06 season by Reynolds' assistant coaches, which led to the playing of ineligible players that season.

In March 2008, Long Beach was placed on three years' probation with limited restrictions and forced to vacate all victories during the 2005-06 season. The team remained eligible for postseason play.

The NCAA report of the infraction cited "improper benefits, impermissible transportation and phone contacts, unethical conduct and a failure to monitor by the institution and the former head coach." The details of the case included assistant coaches arranging and paying for recruits to take courses at community colleges in an effort to make them eligible to play in Division I.

One of the coaches, according to the NCAA, obtained an exam from a correspondence course and forged information on the test before returning it to the school. Two assistant coaches were sanctioned by the NCAA and prohibited from coaching at the NCAA level.

The NCAA claimed that Reynolds was aware that the incoming athletes were academically deficient and needed to take several courses in a short period to become eligible, but that he failed to monitor the athletes' progress and the involvement of his assistant coaches. Reynolds was not personally sanctioned.

The Stanislaus coaching position has been vacant since April 29, when Keith Larsen was fired after six years, which included only one winning season and a 7-18 record in 2008-09.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at or 578-2300.