Dave Rice is no dummy. He knows what UNLV fans want – entertaining wins.
The Rebels’ new coach was a backup guard during the glory days under Jerry Tarkanian and was on the 1990 title team. Those UNLV teams were famous for their winning ways and doing it with an up-tempo, entertaining style.
“Winning is No. 1, I get that — but style of play is going to be 1a,” Rice said in a statement before being introduced as UNLV’s new coach Monday. “We’re going to get out and run — we’re the Runnin’ Rebels.
“It’s to defend at one end, and to push the ball as fast as you possibly can to the other end,” said Rice, who became the first ex-UNLV player to become the school’s head coach.
“If the other teams scores, let’s not let that happen very often,” he said. “We’re going to sprint it up, and we’re going to play together, and we’re going to play winning basketball.”
That’s a strong statement for a guy’s becoming a head coach for the first time. And a smart one.
Rice got the job over guys like Reggie Theus – who had Tark’s endorsement – St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap and former Oregon coach Ernie Kent, which means he either impressed the right people or said the right things. Or both.
(For what it’s worth, Tark may have pushed for Theus, but he later blogged about Rice and proclaimed him to be worth for the job.)
Lon Kruger left UNLV in prime shape to make a run at the Mountain West title next season. Three starters return, along with supersub Quintrell Thomas. Even better? It’s a team capable of playing exactly how Rice wants. They can run, defend and win.
It’ll be just like the old days in Vegas.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.