The two recent Rebel losses at TCU and New Mexico were very tough. I’ve never been able to handle losing games, as a kid it was something I couldn’t deal with—my high school coach once threatened to sit me out of games because I would lose it after a loss. He said I was way too competitive and needed to control myself. I know what the Rebels were feeling after those two games.
You get to a point where you don’t want to face anyone—there were times that I felt I had let the university down, the fans who had come to support us and our coaching staff. It was just a rock bottom feeling. Some days you don’t want to come outside and see anyone. I was lucky; as a Rebel, I only lost back-to-back games once—to Arizona and Oregon in my sophomore year at UNLV in 74-75.
But this UNLV team has something special about it, and I’m sure they will turn things around—the first signs came with solid performances at home against Boise State and Air Force, but the real proof will come at Colorado State on Feb. 29 and against a good Wyoming team back at the Thomas & Mack on Mar. 3—and then, of course, in the Mountain West Conference Tournament March 8-10 at the Mack. The strength of this team is its closeness—the fact that the players care about each other. That kind of bond helps in hard times.
I think people across the nation are starting to see that the Mountain West is no joke. There are a lot of good teams in the conference, and even the so-called “bottom” teams such as Boise State, Wyoming and Air Force can beat any team at any time. The conference tournament should be exciting, with fans coming from each state with a real belief that their team can make a run. And if this season has taught us anything, it’s that they can. The extraordinary victory is always a possibility—and so, unfortunately, is the devastating loss. In this conference, even the best of teams has to be at its best every night.