The Rebel’s hard-fought Nov. 14 victory over UNR brings back a slew of memories from a fierce rivalry. When I arrived in Las Vegas to play for the Rebels in 1974, I didn’t realize how much Northern and Southern Nevada don’t get along. Coach Tarkanian talked about it when I first came over from Arizona Western Junior College, but you don’t really get the true meaning of this rivalry until you step on the floor and begin to play the game.
Playing the Wolf Pack for the first time in the Las Vegas Convention Center was exciting. Our fans were loud and crazy, players were getting physical and there was plenty of trash-talk as the game went on. We won the game 126- 87 after making a strong defensive stand late in the second half.
The second time we faced UNR was different. We played them in Reno in front of their fans—a very hostile crowd. It was a day I’ll never forget: The Wolf Pack fans were wild long before game time, and as I came out to shoot around, I was called every name you could think of. They made sure they didn’t leave anything out. On the side of the bleachers near the visitors’ locker room, some UNLV dolls were hanging on a rope. That’s when it hit me that this rivalry thing was no joke.
As we came out for team warm-ups the fans began to spit on us and taunt us as we ran to the court. Somehow, being in that environment made me want to win so much more—and that’s exactly what we did, 98-88. For my three years At UNLV we were lucky enough to win each contest with UNR, but each game started out as a battle.
The rivalry may not be as strong as it once was in basketball, but I know for football and other sports, the battle rages on. And whenever I see UNR on any UNLV team’s schedule, my heart begins to beat a little faster.