Few Las Vegans have made us prouder to call ourselves Las Vegans than Greg Anthony. At a time when UNLV was commonly depicted in the national press as an outlaw institution in an outlaw city, Anthony was a standing rebuke to our critics: local kid, solid student, congressional intern, vice chairman of the Nevada Young Republicans. And, oh yeah, on Feb. 15, 1990, he started at point guard for the Rebels three days after breaking his jaw. Anthony’s inspirational leadership helped lead the Rebels to the 1990 NCAA title and the 1991 Final Four, when he fouled out against Duke in a semifinal loss that still stings today. He went on to an 11-season NBA career before becoming a broadcaster with ESPN in 2002. Today, he is the lead studio analyst for college basketball on CBS and also covers the NBA for Turner Sports.
There have been 20 years of whispers and conspiracy theories about why that Duke game in ’91 went the way it went. So: Why did that game go the way it went?
Our team had been so dominant for so long. We’d won 45 straight. We returned the entire team. Our average margin of victory was 27. We were playing a team we beat by 30 the previous year. But one of the things that makes March Madness great is that the best team doesn’t always win. There’s always the human element. Duke was motivated; any time you play a team that humiliated you, motivation will be high. They had something to prove. That’s the beauty of sport. Sports are what reality TV tries to do: Nobody knows what’s going to happen.
What would you change if you had the chance to replay that game?
I wouldn’t foul out.
What do you think of the Rebels’ draw in this year’s NCAA Tournament?
It’s a good matchup with Illinois—they turn the ball over a lot, which is good for the Rebels. And they have a chance to play Kansas, and you saw what happened to Kansas the last time with a No. 1 seed, when they lost to Northern Iowa. There’s a chance for UNLV to have some success.
How did you make your transition to broadcasting?
I had retired from the NBA and I was living in New York. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Maybe go to law school. I was at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and they put me up on the screen and people clapped. Then I went on TV at halftime; they asked me a few questions, I answered them, and that was that: I got calls from a couple of agents who asked if I’d ever considered TV. My first response was, “No, should I?” I did a few radio shows and a couple things for NBA TV and MSG Network, and then, not even a month later, I got a call to go to ESPN’s office. I had no experience at all. I auditioned, and the next day they offered me a contract. It was nothing planned, it wasn’t my passion, it just happened.
In your UNLV days, one of your dreams was to become a U.S. senator. Do you still have political aspirations?
Absolutely. It’s still part of my master plan. What’s great is that broadcasting allows me to still have a platform, it keeps my name out there. You can at least let people know where you are. Hopefully there will be a possibility to let a political career materialize in the future.
Are you still a Republican?
I’m still a Republican. I did vote for Barack Obama in the last election: The vote was difficult for me. I was disappointed in John McCain; he didn’t truly vet his vice-presidential choice. If you make a hasty decision on that, it doesn’t speak well of your judgment. My issues are more big government versus small government. I’m more of a believer in the people. That’s how I’ve always been and always will be.
Are your UNLV years still in some way an everyday presence in your life?
I’ve never had a day in my life when I haven’t been reminded about those Runnin’ Rebel teams in glowing language. Of course, they also ask what happened in that game. When you’re a kid, you can never imagine that every day of your life you’ll have contact with people who ask you about those days. That’s our legacy, and I’m just honored to have helped create it.
What are the qualities of a good studio analyst?
You have to be quick on your feet. You can prepare as much as you want, but once the lights are on, things happen that you didn’t count on. You have to be sincere and genuine, so that people don’t look at you as arrogant, as anything other than as a conduit for information. It can’t be about you. You have to tell the truth, but you can do it in a way that’s not personal. You can be critical without being personal. Lastly, you have to be a good teammate. I view what I do now as being on a team. In order to win, you can’t just be good; you have to be good for everybody. You have to help everybody be better.
What made your UNLV squads so transcendent?
We had four first-round NBA draft picks on our team that lost in ’91. But what was different about our team was the experience and the chemistry we had. That was a senior-laden team. Guys had played together minimum of two and sometimes four years. Today you don’t see the really talented teams having that kind of experience. Larry [Johnson] and Stacey [Augmon] could have left early; they didn’t. You don’t have that kind of dynamic today. We had great coaching, trust and that chemistry. The beauty of that was it gave you the chance for greatness.
How close are you with the program today?
I’m fairly close. I talk to Coach Kruger on a regular basis. Every so often I watch the Rebels. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me to get back much. But for me, it’s personal. I’m a Las Vegan, born and raised; I grew up wanting to be a Rebel.