Shortly after Desiree Reed-Francois was introduced as UNLV’s new athletic director Tuesday afternoon, a consensus seemed to be building among the Rebels coaches in attendance. Though most of them hadn’t gotten a chance to meet her face to face yet, there was a sense of optimism in the room.
“Her reputation is really strong,” said football coach Tony Sanchez, who had only spoken briefly with Reed-Francois on the phone. “As soon as she got hired I heard from a lot of people saying, ‘home run, great hire, she’s the ultimate professional.’ Just listening to her, you see the energy. She’s driven, she’s passionate and she’s been around a lot of real successful programs. It’s going to be great to learn from her and work with her.”
Men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies and women’s basketball coach Kathy Oliver had similarly limited contact with Reed-Francois, but echoed Sanchez’s sentiments. They also anticipating building close working relationships with the new AD.
“Like all successful programs, I think it’s important for the athletic director and the head coaches — not just basketball, but all head coaches — to have a good relationship and a common vision,” Menzies said. “A lot of people that I know and trust have spoken very highly of Desiree, so I’m looking forward to forging that relationship very quickly.”
Add Olivier, "Everyone feels she’s going to do a great job. You always want someone that’s there supporting you. I think she has a lot that she’s going to be dealing with, obviously when you start a new job, so I’m going to sit back and wait for her. When she’s ready, I’m sure we’ll talk about our needs for women’s basketball.”
Reed-Francois spent most of her introductory news conference speaking in broad terms about the future of UNLV sports, the university’s athletic facilities, the importance of fundraising and the long process of getting the Rebels into a Power 5 conference.
Sanchez has spent much of the last two years tackling all of those issues, so he knows the future of the football program will depend on he and Reed-Francois teaming up to provide leadership.
“I would love to have a very close relationship with our athletic director and be able to bounce ideas off each other,” Sanchez said. “At the end of the day, our athletic program is not where it needs to be. We all know that, right? And we’re working diligently every single day to move the needle and get ourselves going forward. So I think her expertise and her background, her drive, along with people like myself and the other coaches, we’re all going to work hard together to take UNLV to another level.”
Reed-Francois’ biggest supporter was Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock, who attended the press conference and expressed confidence that his protégé will be able to do big things at UNLV.
“I don’t doubt for a second she’s the right person [for the job],” Babcock said. “She has an executive mindset, she’s a product of the student-athlete experience, and she’s a citizen of the industry, so to speak. Time will always tell and actions speak louder than words, but UNLV is going to be very pleasantly surprised.”
Babcock worked with Reed-Francois at Virginia Tech for five years, though it didn’t take him nearly that long to recognize her potential.
“That undeniable work ethic was the first thing that stood out to me,” Babcock said. “Her attention to detail. She’s incredibly intelligent and she helps hire really good coaches, and she cares deeply about the student-athletes. I think she’s the whole package and UNLV is getting a rising star.”