Rebels welcome Rice
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New coach says he is ready to take Runnin’ Rebs to next level
Twenty-two years after winning a championship as a player with the Runnin’ Rebels, Dave Rice is returning to his alma mater as the head coach of the basketball team.
After narrowing the head coaching search to four earlier in the week, Jim Livengood, UNLV’s athletic director, decided to hire Rice on Sunday.
“[Rice] is coming home,” Livengood said, “and we are sure glad to have him.”
Rice played for Jerry Tarkanian from 1989-1991, and following that was an assistant coach at UNLV for 11 seasons, most of which were under Tim Grgurich.
Rice said in Monday’s press conference that Tark was the reason he entered the coaching profession.
“I’m humbled because coach Tarkanian is right here and that I have the job that he had, and that makes the difference to all of us who were Runnin’ Rebels,” Rice said.
Rice’s heart has evidently been at UNLV since his playing days. He and his wife graduated from UNLV, and he said has been working hard to be considered the right person for the job.
“Rice is the right person at the right time for UNLV basketball on so many different levels,” Livengood said about the new hire. “Everyone we talked to in the industry raved about his work ethic and his ability to make things happen the right way.”
Rice comes to the Rebels looking to change a few things with the team’s play. He said he wants to go back to the same style of play that fans got used to in the early ‘90s, as the Rebels were led to unseen heights.
“We are going to win, but style of play is so important to us and our staff,” Rice said. “We are going to play Runnin’ Rebel basketball.”
The players said they are also excited to have Rice with the team.
The team met with Rice on Sunday night and had their first practice with him on Tuesday.
“We’re all excited about it. We’re ready to get this next year started,” senior guard Kendall Wallace said. “He’s here to win and we’re here to support him and make a run at it next year.”
One reason the players say they are so supportive of Rice is that he has made sure to emphasize that the game is about the team, not him.
“First off, this is all about the guys on the team, not about me,” Rice said. “We have a lot of experience and talent coming back, and we think we can do some great things with this group. But this is about ‘we,’ not about ‘me.’”
Rice will also need to bring on a supportive staff.
He made his first hire already, as he brought on San Diego State assistant Justin Hutson. Hutson is known for his defensive prowess and his ability to recruit in the West.
Another former UNLV legend, Stacey Augmon, might join Rice on the staff.
The two played together, and it has been rumored that Augmon has expressed interest in the job.
A decision on Augmon will not be made until the Denver Nuggets, the team for which he is currently an assistant, complete their play in the NBA playoffs.
“If he’s bringing in the staff he’s talking about bringing in, it’s exciting,” Wallace said. “I think it’s exciting for everybody in Vegas and everyone involved with UNLV.”
Rice said he feels right at home with the Rebels and even said, “I’m willing to sign a lifetime contract today!”
With Rice coming to town, UNLV’s future looks bright. If all goes as planned, Rebels fans will have plenty to excite them for years to come.