RUNNIN’ REBELS OF UNLV examines the larger-than-life personalities of future NBA stars such as Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, as well as the eccentricities of their head coach, who was a lightning rod for controversy. Jerry Tarkanian put UNLV – once dismissed as “Tumbleweed Tech” – on the map in his first full season as head coach, leading the team to a 20-6 record in 1973. Implementing an up-tempo offense and preaching defensive intensity, he guided the Rebels to the Final Four four times and won the 1990 NCAA Championship with a 30-point drubbing of the Duke Blue Devils.
Billed as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time, the 1990-1991 Rebels became the first team in 12 seasons to go undefeated during the regular season before losing in the Final Four to archrival Duke in a heartbreaking 79-77 defeat. UNLV has not been back to the Final Four since. Overall, UNLV’s basketball program compiled a jaw-dropping 509-105 record under Tarkanian.
The NCAA consistently plagued the Rebels throughout Tarkanian’s time as head coach, placing UNLV on two-year probation for alleged recruiting violations and attempting to suspend Tarkanian in 1977. Although the coach fought the suspension and was allowed to continue coaching, problems with the NCAA came to a head in 1987 when one of Tarkanian’s prized recruits was caught buying cocaine from an undercover police officer. The Rebels were subsequently prohibited from postseason competition in 1992, when the team finished with a 26-2 record, playing for pride instead of the playoffs.
Jerry Tarkanian departed as head coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on June 7, 1992. He went on to coach the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, but was fired in a dispute with the team’s owner after just 20 games. While coaching for his alma mater Fresno State in 1998, Tarkanian was vindicated by an out-of-court $2.5 million settlement with the NCAA, which he claimed had tried to drive him from college basketball.
Interviews include Jerry and Lois Tarkanian; former UNLV stars Greg Anthony, Reggie Theus, Stacey Augmon and Armon Gilliam; Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski; talk show host Jimmy Kimmel; broadcaster Ross Porter; Las Vegas historian Dr. Mike Green; USC professor Dr. Todd Boyd; radio host Bomani Jones; and journalists Armen Keteyian, Steve Carp, Don Yaeger, Greg Blake Miller and John Henderson.