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UNLV Runnin' Rebels men's basketball


UNLV Runnin' Rebels men's basketball

"UNLV Runnin' Rebels" redirects here. For the UNLV's overall athletic program, see UNLV Rebels.

Template:Infobox CBB Team

The UNLV Runnin' Rebels are a NCAA Division I men's basketball team who play at the Thomas & Mack Center in Paradise, Nevada, United States. As of 2009, UNLV has the fourth-highest winning percentage (.712) in Division I history, ranking behind Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas, but ahead of UCLA, and Duke. UNLV is 33-19 all-time in the NCAA tournament with a .635 winning percentage. In July 2008, ESPNU named the program the eighth most prestigious collegiate basketball program in the nation since 1984.[1]


The glory years

In 1977, just seven years after joining Division I, The Rebels made the Final Four in a squad today known as the "Hardway Eight".[2] Ten years later, the team made the Final Four with one loss and in 1990, UNLV won the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship by beating Duke University by a record-setting margin of 103–73,[3] becoming the first team and up to this date the only team to score over 100 in the championship game. Before becoming a basketball powerhouse in the late 1970s, UNLV was often referred to as "Tumbleweed Tech"[3] due to its relative obscurity.[4] Led by famed coach Jerry Tarkanian, the Runnin' Rebels were among the most exciting teams in the nation. They consistently led the nation in points scored, turnovers forced, and most importantly - wins. The Runnin' Rebels were well known for going on long runs that turned close games into blowouts.

Tarkanian was suspected of violating numerous NCAA regulations and was forced out in 1992 by then-president Robert Maxson.[5] In 1998 Tarkanian received a $2.5 million out of court settlement when he sued the NCAA for violations stemming from its investigation of UNLV.[6] On November 26, 2005, for his achievements as coach of the Runnin' Rebels (he was 509–105 in 19 years as head coach), the basketball court at the Thomas & Mack Center was renamed Jerry Tarkanian Court.[6] The last Rebel squad coached by Tarkanian won their ninth consecutive Big West Conference regular season title, but was barred from the NCAA Tournament due to probation. The Rebels had actually been barred from the 1991 tourney only months after winning the title, but a settlement with the NCAA allowed them to play in that tournament and miss the next one.

The lean years

The years after Tarkanian's departure were tumultuous. UNLV hired former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino to replace Tarkanian, but after a 15-13 season in 1993-94, he was let go. The community was outraged to discover that Massimino had been awarded a secret contract[7] — a deal that ultimately led to Maxson's departure from UNLV.

Massimino was replaced by well-respected Tarkanian assistant Tim Grgurich, but he lasted just 7 games in 1994 before resigning. Howie Landa and Cleveland Edwards finished the 1994-95 season, which ended with a 12-16 record—the school's first losing season in 34 years, and first since moving up to Division I. The team hired UMass assistant Bill Bayno for the 1995-96 season. With a still-depleted roster, Bayno's first year ended with a 10-16 record, the worst in school history.

However, Bayno engineered a very quick return to respectability. He was an excellent recruiter, bringing in future NBA talent including Shawn Marion, Tyrone Nesby, and Keon Clark. The Rebels returned to the NCAA Tournament in 1997, their first appearance in six years Bayno was let go in 2000, after the NCAA found that UNLV had violated rules while recruiting Lamar Odom. Odom ultimately chose Rhode Island over UNLV.

It was in the wake of Bayno that UNLV began looking for a well-respected coach to act as an anchor for the program. The school intensely pursued former University of Kentucky and Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino, who ultimately spurned the university before choosing to work at Louisville. Former Saint Louis University coach Charlie Spoonhour replaced Bayno for the 2001-02 season, compiling a 54-31 record before resigning in the middle of the 2004 season.

Recent years

The anchor turned out to be Lon Kruger, who came to Las Vegas after an unsuccessful stint as the coach of the Atlanta Hawks. Kruger was 107-46 since taking the helm at UNLV in 2004, with a 3-2 record in the NCAA tournament and a 1-2 record in the NIT.

On Dec. 9, 2006, UNLV won a significant road game at Nevada 58-49, ranked No. 20 in the nation at the time. It was the first time UNLV had won a game on the road vs. a ranked opponent since the No.1 Runnin' Rebels won at No.12 New Mexico 86-74 on Feb. 25, 1991, the year UNLV finished 34-1 under coach Jerry Tarkanian with a 79-77 loss to Duke in the NCAA semifinals being their only defeat. A win later that year on ESPN at Texas Tech as Bob Knight attempted to set the all-time coaching wins mark put UNLV in NCAA tournament contention, and winning the Mountain West Conference tournament sealed their bid. They finished the regular season 25-5. The Runnin' Rebels ultimately lost to Oregon in the Sweet 16, 76-72, after defeating Georgia Tech and upsetting Wisconsin. The team finished 14th in the polls with a 30-6 record.

On March 15, 2008, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels won the 2008 Mountain West Conference Basketball Championship, defeating a No. 24 BYU team 76-61. Wink Adams scored a game-high 23 points and was given the MVP title. This was the only time of the season they beat a ranked opponent.

They were a No. 8 seed for the 2008 NCAA Tournament after going 23-7 in the regular season and played Kent State on Thursday, March 20, 2008, beating them with a final score of 71-58. UNLV had the lead the entire game and held Kent State to a tournament record 10 points in the first half. Next, they faced top-seeded and eventual national champion Kansas on March 22, 2008. The Runnin' Rebels ended the first half above expectations, trailing 29-34. However, Kansas controlled the second half and denied UNLV their fifth straight second-round win, winning the game 75-56. They finished that season 27-8.

The Rebels started the 2008-09 season 5-0, their best start since 1999. A 73-55 loss to the California Golden Bears on November 28, 2008, however, was the first time since the previous season that the Rebels had lost by more than 15, and was the first time they had ever lost to the Golden Bears after 3 meetings prior. The very next day they lost to Cincinnati 67-65, which marked the first time in over 3 years that the Rebels had lost consecutive games. On December 31, 2008, they beat #18 Louisville 56-55, on the road, which was the highest ranked opponent the Rebels have beaten on the road since they beat #12 New Mexico in 1991, and their only game against a ranked opponent all season. They also started off the first half of their season 13-2, their best 15 game start since they went 15-0 1991. They fell out in the second half of the season, going 8-7 and finished the regular season with a 21-9 record and 5th in their conference. They were denied a third consecutive Conference Tournament Championship when they lost to the San Diego State Aztecs 71-57, on March 12, 2009. The Rebels went on to become a No. 5 seed in the 2009 NIT in a loss against Kentucky in the first round on March 17, 2009.

The Rebels started off strong once again for their 2009-10 campaign with their second consecutive 5-0 start, the first time since 1989-90 and 1990-91 that they have done so. Their victory over #16 Louisville was their first home victory against a ranked opponent since beating #23 BYU in March 2007 and the highest ranked opponent the Rebels have beaten since defeating the Wisconsin Badgers (ranked 6th in the final AP Poll) in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. On November 30, 2009, the Rebels were ranked 24th in the AP Polls and 21st in the USA Today/ESPN Polls, making it the first time they've been ranked since finishing 14th in both polls after the 2006-07 campaign.

On February 10, 2010, UNLV, ranked 23rd at the time in the AP Polls, played against New Mexico, ranked 15th at the time. It marked the first game between ranked opponents at the Thomas & Mack Center since #25 UNLV played #23 BYU on March 10, 2007.[8]

On March 6, 2010, they ended their 2009-10 campaign with 74-56 win over Wyoming at home. They finished the season 23-7, their best win-loss record since going 25-5 after the 2006-07 season.[9]

On March 14, 2010, the Runnin' Rebels returned to the NCAA Tournament after missing out in 2009. They finished the season with a 25-9 record, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Northern Iowa 66-69, thanks to a 3-pointer with under 3 seconds to go by The Panthers.

On March 13, 2011, the Runnin' Rebels earned their 18th overall NCAA Tournament bid and fourth in five seasons, being picked as an 8 seed in the Southwest Regional. UNLV faced the 9th seeded Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois. UNLV finished the season 24-9, falling to the Illini 62-73 on Friday, March 18, 2011.[10]

On April 1, 2011, Lon Kruger announced that he would be Leaving UNLV for the University of Oklahoma. Kruger reportedly will receive a compensation package worth about 2.2 million dollars per year with the Sooners.[11]

On November 26, 2011, The Rebels upset #1 North Carolina at the Orleans Arena in the Las Vegas Invitational, 90-80 to start their season 7-0. It was their third consecutive 7-0 start to a season.

NCAA Final Four appearances


Known as the “Hardway Eight,” this was the team that put UNLV on the map as a nationally prominent program. With players such as Lewis Brown, Glen Gondrezick, Larry Moffett, Eddie Owens, Robert Smith, Sam Smith, Tony Smith and Reggie Theus, the Rebels ran themselves to a record of 29-3 and a spot in the 1977 Final Four at the Omni in Atlanta. UNLV’s record-setting team established NCAA marks for most points in one season (3,426), most 100-point games (23) and most consecutive 100-point games (12). The Runnin’ Rebels won their first-ever West Regional Championship and advanced to the national semifinals. An 84-83 loss to North Carolina in the semifinals ended the championship dreams, but a 106-94 triumph over North Carolina-Charlotte gave UNLV third place and a positive end to the season. The squad was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.


The 1986-87 edition of Runnin’ Rebels basketball was a special one as it became the first team to end the regular season as the nation’s top-ranked team. Led by Freddie Banks, Jarvis Basnight, Armon Gilliam, Gerald Paddio and Mark Wade, the Rebels ran through the Pacific Coast Athletic Association with a perfect record of 18-0. The team’s only regular-season loss came at Oklahoma, 89-88. UNLV entered the NCAA Tournament as the top seed in the West Region, breezing through the first three rounds. The Rebels received a big scare in the regional final when they were forced to overcome an 18-point deficit against a scrappy Iowa squad. The 84-81 triumph earned UNLV a spot in the Final Four at the Superdome in New Orleans. Banks shined in the semifinal matchup with Indiana, connecting on a tournament-record 10 3-pointers, but it was not enough as the Rebels fell to the eventual champions, 97-93. The loss ended UNLV’s season with a record of 37-2. The squad was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.


The season it all came together for the Runnin’ Rebels was 1989-90. Future NBA star Larry Johnson transferred from Odessa College, joining Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, David Butler and Anderson Hunt. The Rebels began the season ranked No. 1 in almost every poll and rolled through the competition. UNLV suffered a surprising loss at New Mexico State and finished the season as co-champions of the Big West Conference. However, Johnson and Co. flexed their muscles in the Big West Tournament, running away with the title and the No. 1 seed in the West Region. In NCAA Tournament play, the Rebels toughest game came in the third round at Oakland, Calif., when Ball State hung tough before falling 69-67. UNLV also ended Loyola Marymount’s Cinderella season with a 131-101 thrashing in the regional final. The win set up a semifinal match with Georgia Tech at McNichols Arena in Denver. Trailing by seven at the half, UNLV rallied for an 89-80 triumph and a date in the championship. The 1990 NCAA Championship was all UNLV as an 18-0 run midway through the second half sent Duke reeling as the Rebels ran up the most lopsided victory in championship history, 103-73. Hunt was named Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four for his performance as the Rebels finished the season 35-5. The squad was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.


Billed as one of the greatest teams of all time, the 1990-91 squad became the first team in 12 seasons to go undefeated in the regular season (27-0). A perfect record of 18-0 captured the Big West crown and earned the Rebels the No. 1 seed in the West Region. UNLV also flexed its muscles in a 112-105 victory over then-No. 2 Arkansas in Fayetteville. The Rebels rolled through regional play with wins over Montana, Georgetown, Utah and Seton Hall before a showdown with Duke in the Final Four at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, and Christian Laettner kept the Rebels in check all evening and ended UNLV’s dreams of back-to-back championships and the first perfect season since Indiana in 1976. The 79-77 loss ended UNLV’s season with a record of 34-1. The team was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.

NIT appearances

After their numerous Tournament and Final Four appearances, the Rebels started to settle down and became less of a power school and more of an NIT team. They made their debut in 1980, where they made 4th place, and in 1982, as well, reaching the 2nd round. They made appearances in 1993, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and the latest in 2009. During this time, however, they made the NCAA Tournament four times, in 1998, and again in 2000 coming during Bayno's tenure with the team and also in 2007 with Kruger where they reached the Sweet Sixteen and 2008 where they made the 2nd round in a loss to eventual champion Kansas. The Rebels are 8-11 all time in the NIT, with their last game being a loss to Kentucky on March 17, 2009.


The Rebels have 3 major rivalries, including the Wolfpack of the University of Nevada, Reno, the SDSU Aztecs and an inactive rivalry with the BYU Cougars. UNLV leads the series with the Wolfpack 57-19 and has won the last eight meetings. The Runnin' Rebels lead their all-time conference series with BYU (before their departure from the conference) 19-16 as of the end of the 2010-11 season with back to back wins over BYU in the MWC tournament championship games (07 and 08) and a victory on February 21, 2009 marked the first regular season sweep of the Cougars in the Lon Kruger era.[12][13] In the 13 seasons of the MWC, the Aztecs hold a slight edge in the series record at 17-16 including winning 9 of the last 11 meetings. The intensity of this rivalry has grown exponentially over the last few years with some memorable showdowns.



Thomas & Mack Center (1983–Present)

The Thomas & Mack Center a 18,776 seat multipurpose arena on the southwest corner of the UNLV campus. The arena, which opened in 1983, is named after prominent Nevada bankers E. Parry Thomas and Jerome Mack, who donated the original fund for the feasibility and land studies. During a game against in-state rival Nevada-Reno in November 2005, the court at the Thomas & Mack Center was renamed in honor of former head coach Jerry Tarkanian who posted a 509-105 record in his 19 seasons, including leading UNLV to 11 conference championships, 12 NCAA tournament berths and a national title in 1990.

Banners hang in the arena rafters all around the arena that honor former Rebels (including Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson), regular season and conference tournament championships, appearances in NCAA and NIT tournaments, advancements to the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Fours and a prominent banner representing the 1990 National Championship team.

Las Vegas Convention Center (1966–1982)

In 1966, UNLV moved to the Las Vegas Convention Center near on Paradise Road in Winchester. The Runnin' Rebels would play sixteen seasons at the Convention Center, before moving back on campus to the newly opened Thomas & Mack Center for the 1983-84 season.

NSU Gymnasium (1960–1966)

The Runnin' Rebels moved to the NSU Gymnasium located on the UNLV campus (then known as Nevada Southern University) for their third season, 1960-61. The Runnin' Rebels would play six seasons at NSU Gymnasium before moving to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The NSU Gymnasium was developed into a natural history museum at UNLV and was renamed in 1989 to honor Marjorie Barrick, a longstanding benefactor of the university. The hardwood basketball court floor is still intact and acts as the floor for the museum.

Dula Memorial Gymnasium (1958–60)

The first season for the Rebels was 1958-59. Since there were only two buildings on the "campus", the team practiced at a nearby junior high and home games were played at the Dula Memorial Gymnasium (off Bonanza Road) for the first two seasons

Mendenhall Center

Announced in March 2010, the Mendenhall Center will be a state-of-the-art basketball practice facility attached to the south side of the Cox Pavilion, near the Thomas & Mack Center. The Mendenhall Center will have a total of 38,000 square feet (3,500 m2) of space on three levels. Included will be two basketball courts, an academic area and film room, locker rooms, athletic training, strength and conditioning, and equipment areas.

Groundbreaking occurred on October 21, 2010 with a tentative completion date of spring 2011. The facility will be built entirely through the private sector and, upon completion of construction, will be gifted to the university.[14] Several million of the $11.7 million to fund the facility came from Las Vegas Paving CEO Bob Mendenhall.[15]

Aside from the two regulation-sized practice courts, the building will feature locker rooms for both players and coaches, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning equipment, an academics area, and a team video room along with other amenities. The facility will also include a Hall of Fame at the entrance and a mezzanine that overlooks the practice floors and can be used for receptions.[15]

NCAA Tournament record

Year Record Last Opponent Coach
1975 2-1 Arizona State Jerry Tarkanian
1976 1-1 Arizona Jerry Tarkanian
1977 4-1 Final Four North Carolina Jerry Tarkanian
1983 0-1 NC State* Jerry Tarkanian
1984 2-1 Georgetown* Jerry Tarkanian
1985 1-1 Kentucky Jerry Tarkanian
1986 2-1 Auburn Jerry Tarkanian
1987 4-1 Final Four Indiana* Jerry Tarkanian
1988 1-1 Iowa Jerry Tarkanian
1989 3-1 Seton Hall Jerry Tarkanian
1990 6-0 Final Four Duke Jerry Tarkanian
1991 4-1 Final Four Duke* Jerry Tarkanian
1998 0-1 Princeton Bill Bayno
2000 0-1 Tulsa Bill Bayno
2007 2-1 Oregon Lon Kruger
2008 1-1 Kansas* Lon Kruger
2010 0-1 Northern Iowa Lon Kruger
2011 0-1 Illinois Lon Kruger
2012 0-1 Colorado Dave Rice
2013 0-1 California Dave Rice

Retired numbers

UNLV has retired eight players' uniforms to date,[16] being the last Armon Gilliam's #35 in 2007.[17]

UNLV Rebels retired numbers
No. Player Pos. Career
4 Larry Johnson SF 1989-91
21 Sidney Green PF 1979-83
23 Reggie Theus SG 1975-78
25 Glen Gondrezick SF 1973-77
32 Stacey Augmon SF 1987-91
35 Armon Gilliam PF 1984-87
40 Ricky Sobers PG 1971-75
50 Greg Anthony PG 1988-91

Other UNLV basketball alumni


External links

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