Lady Rebels head coach staying at UNLV through 2017
When Kathy Olivier left her position as UCLA head coach after 15 years and returned to her alma mater in 2008, she knew it would take time before the Lady Rebels became the winning team they once were.
“Anyone who thinks, ‘Wow, they should be good after year two or they should be good after year three,’” Olivier said, “it takes a long, long time.”
She was right. It didn’t take two or three years — it took four. And for the Lady Rebels, the goal is to be just as successful over the next five.
Coming off her most successful season as head coach of the Lady Rebels, Olivier was awarded a new five-year contract at the Sept. 6 Board of Regents meeting that will keep her around until 2017.
“I’m thrilled that they renewed my contract and have me pretty much set up for five years,” Olivier said. “I think that it’s a huge compliment to my staff, to the players and the huge support I have with the administration.”
Olivier and her staff put together a squad that propelled the Lady Rebels to its first 20-win season in 10 years, and also earned the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Conference tournament for the first time ever.
“I can’t say enough about the people that I’m around and the dedication they’ve put in, the hard work,” she said. “[Associate head coach Caitlin] Collier has been with me from day one, [assistant coach] Nikki Blue has been with me the entire time, and players like Kelli Thompson, Mia Bell and Amanda Anderson have been with us since day one.”
The Lady Rebels will have a new identity this upcoming season due to the graduation of forwards Jamie Smith, Lenita Sanford, Markiell Styles and Sandrine Nzeukou. Olivier said it’ll be up to Thompson, Bell and Anderson to take over the leadership role that the four seniors held.
“We just lost four seniors that did amazing things for this program, who were overly dedicated, who took major ownership, and now they pretty much have passed the baton,” she said. “Now it’s their turn to step up and do the things that the seniors did, and that’s kind of how it works. We can’t allow a drop off. It might happen, because we are going to be young.”
“It took these guys three years to learn our system, so it’s going to be a process, but everyone’s here and working extremely hard to get it done.”
It’s two months before the 2012 season gets underway and a tough schedule is lying in wait for UNLV, but Olivier said that it’s still too soon to be thinking about expectations.
“We lost a lot of leadership, seniors that knew the philosophy and knew what we wanted to do,” Olivier said. “And now we have a new group in, but it’s an exciting group and full of very hard workers. It’s too early to say where we’ll finish in the conference, but our goal is always going to be to finish in the top half of the conference, and go for the top two spots.”
In terms of the next four years she’ll be here, the two goals that Olivier and her staff want to reach within that time frame are simple.
Continue to recruit at a high level, and become as recognized as the Runnin’ Rebels.
“Everyone has pushed the limits to get it done because we were so rock bottom and we’ve had to build,” Olivier said. “We’re going to continue to recruit hard … Our focus is to just get better.”
“Let’s get to the point where we are like the Runnin’ Rebels. I think [head coach] Dave Rice has done an amazing job, he’s a great mentor for me. We want to be a top-10 program, and we want to catch up to what they’re doing and build that excitement … and run it over to the Lady Rebels because we work just as hard.”
Whether they reach the level of the Runnin’ Rebels or reach their own pinnacle, Olivier and the Lady Rebels will always have support from within the department.
“Kathy has done a great job of growing Lady Rebel basketball,” said athletic director Jim Livengood in a statement. “She is a Rebel herself and cares deeply about her program and UNLV and continually makes those around her better with her enthusiasm. The future for our Lady Rebels looks to be outstanding with Kathy leading the way.”
But as of now, Olivier is living in the moment and being thankful for the opportunity.
“I feel very proud and honored that they want me back, but I also feel extremely proud of what we’ve done,” she said. “We’ve taken this program to a level to where we were getting top-25 votes this past year, and that’s just a huge compliment to the people that are around me. I’m psyched.”