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UNLV Basketball: Runnin' With the Rebels

Who would make their all-time best roster?

Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

With another Mountain West basketball season in the books, it made me kinda sad.

Something that stress pizza eating and constant lament of a lack of a college basketball game on XBOX One can't cure.

All kidding aside, it made me think about this year's UNLV basketball team. This year and off-season definitely had its highs and lows. From the firing of Dave Rice to the solid play of Stephen Zimmerman Jr. and Patrick McCaw to the soap opera that was Mick Cronin and Chris Beard to the nice hire of Marvin Menzies as head coach, thoughts came into my head about how good this program used to be.

You see, in different points in time, UNLV used to be a darn good basketball team. When Jerry Tarkanian took over the team in 1973, the team had only been in Division I basketball for three years. And at that point, Las Vegas was not known as a sports town. Sure, it was a town for sports bookies, but not really distinguished as a sports hub. People were more excited about seeing Frank Sinatra or Joey Bishop and gambling their mortgage money.

I decided to come up with my own all-time UNLV roster. Doesn't make it the best roster ever, but one I think could compete with the best all-time teams from other schools.

Jerry Tarkanian-Head Coach

During his time at UNLV, Jerry Tarkanian took the program to big heights. (

During his time at UNLV, Jerry Tarkanian took the program to big heights. (Otto Greule/Allsport)

Jerry Tarkanian built UNLV basketball. There's no question about it. In 1973-74, in his second year with the program, he took the Rebels to the WCC Championship and the NCAA Tournament. In 1976-77, with a roster that included Eddie Owens, Reggie Theus and rebound specialist Glen Gondrezick, he took UNLV to the Final Four, where they lost to North Carolina.

In the years after, Tark kept leading his programs to more regular season titles, more NCAA Tournament appearances, and three more Final Four appearances, including the 1990 National Championship, where he lead a talented roster of stars to the promised land against Duke. Led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, David Butler and Anderson Hunt, Duke's roster of Christian Laettner, Phil Henderson and Bobby Hurley couldn't match fire with UNLV's mix of scoring, rebounding and finesse. With a 103-73 win, the Rebels were the toast of Sin City.

Tark ruled the town like a boss.

Former UNLV Coach Dave Rice, who played for Tarkanian during the team's glory days in the 80's and 90's, told CBS Sports Radio Host Scott Ferrall that Tark was synonymous with Vegas.

"You think about 509 wins and only 105 losses at UNLV and four Final Fours and a national championship, but it was so much more than that. It was the style of play. And I think Coach Tark – as much as anyone else in the history of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada – help put UNLV on the map and certainly put the city of Las Vegas on the map."

Controversy surrounded Tark during his time with the Rebels, but every time, he seemed to prove himself innocent. He left the program in 1992 to coach the San Antonio Spurs. But after disagreements with team management over roster moves, he was fired 20 games into his first season. Three years later, he was back in coaching, this time with his alma mater Fresno State, where he took the program to a new level. During his seven year run with the Bulldogs, he helped the team win 3 WAC titles and two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Tark passed away in 2015, but his legacy will live forever in the hearts and minds of Rebels fans everywhere. He was an incredible basketball coach who made college basketball relevant in Las Vegas.

Armen Gilliam-Power Forward/Center

Armon Gilliam was a scoring and rebounding machine for UNLV. (Courtesy of Mike Powell/Allsport)

Armen Gilliam was a scoring and rebounding machine for UNLV. (Courtesy of Mike Powell/Allsport)

Since Tark's teams didn't have a prolific center to choose from, I decided to put Gilliam as my center. Nicknamed "The Hammer", he was more of a Power Forward during his college and NBA days, but he could get a lot of rebounds and also get key blocks. I figure even though he was 6'9", he was imposing enough to get the job done as my big man.

His 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons were pretty darn solid for the Rebels, especially the 86-87 campaign, where he averaged 9.5 rebounds and 23.7 points per game. He helped UNLV score the most points per game that year, and assisted them in going to the Final Four, where they fell to Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers. He also went on to a nice 13 year career in the NBA, where he put up 13.7 PPG and 6.9 rebounds per contest.

In July 2011, after playing a game of pickup basketball, Gilliam suffered a heart attack and died. He will live on as one of UNLV's best scorers and most exciting stars of the school in the 1980's.

Larry Johnson-Power Forward

(Photo Courtesy of

Before he was "Grandmama", Larry Johnson was a National Champion with UNLV. (Photo Courtesy of Stephen Wade/Getty Images)

We all remember the Converse commercials. We all remember the episode of "Family Matters" where he teamed up with Steve Urkel to win the City Basketball Championship. Yes, Larry Johnson was a pop culture icon in the early 1990's, but people forget that he was a darn good basketball player too.

Before he dressed in drag as "Grandmama" for commercials, Johnson was a tremendous versatile player for UNLV. He could score. He could rebound. He could block. He could do everything it took to help his team win. Quite simply: if Larry Johnson doesn't play for UNLV in that 1990 season, they don't win the National Championship.

I remember watching him against Michigan State the third week of the 1990-91 season, and thinking, "this guy is going to be great in the NBA." He had 35 points in that game and 14 rebounds. If that doesn't say first round pick, I don't know what is. He kept up that pace all season long. 24 points. 27 points. 31 points. There was no doubt that this guy was going to help some NBA team down the line.

When he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, I had to get his jersey. Even though I was a Lakers fan, I felt it was okay to wear it, because, well, the Hornets weren't a rival of the Lakers, and I really liked his game. I pretended to be him on the basketball court. I tried to emulate his moves, and it helped my overall game.

I decided not to play in a dress in an old ladies hat though. Would have seriously brought down my game.

Stacey Augmon-Small Forward

Stacey Augmon was an integral piece of UNLV's 1990 National Title team. (Courtesy of Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Stacey Augmon was an integral piece of UNLV's 1990 National Title team. (Courtesy of Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Much like Nate McMillan was known as "Mr. Sonic", Stacey Augmon should be known as "Mr. Rebel". Whether as a player or a coach, Augmon's name is synonymous with UNLV basketball.

While he was a solid shooter for the Rebels, Augmon was a terrific defensive player. He could steal the basketball like a thief in the night. He could rebound, and get key blocks when the team needed it most. His best years had to be during the 1988-89 season, when he averaged 15.3 points per game and 7.4 rebounds, which earned him Big West Player of the Year honors. He had another banner year in 1990-91, when he nabbed 16.5 points per game, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per contest.

He went on to have a nice NBA career, most notably with the Atlanta Hawks, where he helped them with the Central Division championship in 1993-94. But to many, his name and reputation is tied in to the UNLV program.

Reggie Theus-Shooting Guard

Reggie Theus helped UNLV to prominence during the early Jerry Tarkanian years. (Courtesy of Mike Powell/Getty Images)

Reggie Theus helped UNLV to prominence during the early Jerry Tarkanian years. (Courtesy of Mike Powell/Getty Images)

Make no mistake about it. Reggie Theus was quite possibly the first big breakout star of UNLV during their glory years in the 1970's. He really came into his own during the 1976-77 season, when he helped the Rebels to a 29-3 record and a berth in the Final Four. That year, he raised his average to 14.5 points per game, all the while averaging 4.3 assists per contest, and helping on the boards as well, nabbing 4.5 rebounds. He was a complete player, making all of his teammates around him better.

In 1977-78, Theus improved even more, scoring 18.9 points per game, and increasing his rebounding to 6.8 a game. It was clear that the 6'7" shooting guard from Los Angeles was going places.

Theus went on to have a solid NBA career. After being drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1978, he helped the team to the playoffs in 1981, where they fell to the Boston Celtics in the second round. He also made the All-Star Game twice with the Bulls in 1981 and 1984.

After six years with the Bulls, Theus brought his exciting play to the Kansas City Kings, who relocated to Sacramento in 1985. During his tenure with Kansas City/Sacramento, he averaged no less than 18 points a game, all the while helping the Kings make the playoffs their first year in Sacramento in 1985-86.

While Theus will be known as a really good guard who could score and pass during his NBA career, and also his attempt at acting on NBC's "Hang Time", he should be remembered as one of the early stars of those really good UNLV teams of the 1970's.

Greg Anthony-Point Guard

Greg Anthony in action during the 1990-91 season. (Courtesy of Ken Levine/Getty Images)

Greg Anthony in action during the 1990-91 season. (Courtesy of Ken Levine/Getty Images)

The transfer of Greg Anthony to UNLV was a pickup that should not go unnoticed. Anthony was the set up man to all the great scorers for the Rebels. I guess you could say he was the John Stockton or Gary Payton of UNLV, racking up a crazy number of assists, all the while stealing the ball at an incredible rate. During UNLV's National Title run in 1989-90, he averaged 7.4 assists per game, and just finished short of 3 steals per contest. In 1990-91, he continued his amazing run, averaging almost 9 assists a game, and picking up 2.4 steals.

Nowadays, Anthony can be seen on CBS Sports, offering his expertise during NCAA basketball telecasts. He also has been dreaming of a political career. But he will be most remembered for his ability to get turnovers for his team, and also to help his teammates get the ball to the basket. He is one of the best all around players in school history.

My Bench

C-Lewis Brown (Played: 1973-1977)

PF-Sidney Green (Played: 1979-1983)

SF-Eddie Owens (Played: 1973-1977)

SG-Isiah Rider (Played: 1991-1993)

PG-Freddie Banks (Played: 1983-1987)

I truly believe that my starting five would compete against any all-time roster of any college school in history, and even my bench is deep enough to be a successful starting five, and could hold their own against the Dukes, North Carolinas and Syracuses of the world.

While modern UNLV basketball might not be setting the world on fire right now, their rich history should certainly be celebrated.

They are truly a Vegas original.