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Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Jerry Tarkanian: His coaching tree

By Myron Medcalf

Editor's Note: Three legendary college basketball coaches -- Jerry Tarkanian, Rick Pitino and Guy Lewis -- take center stage this weekend as the trio is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. We'll be devoting a day to each as we examine what made them HOF-worthy.

Jerry Tarkanian’s coaching tenure was filled with both bliss and controversy. But the drama doesn’t outweigh the facts about his decorated coaching career, including a prestigious reign at UNLV. He led the Runnin’ Rebels to four Final Fours and the 1990 national title. He also took three different schools to the NCAA tournament.

For all of that success, however, Tarkanian doesn’t boast the same coaching tree that some of his Hall of Fame peers produced.

Here is the best of Tarkanian’s coaching tree:

Dave Rice
Dave Rice played for Jerry Tarkanian, coached under him and now is the head man at UNLV.
Dave Rice: The current leader of UNLV’s program played for Tarkanian and coached under him, too. Rice was a member of UNLV’s 1990 national championship squad. He also played on the UNLV squad that nearly repeated a year later. Once Rice's career ended, Tark convinced him to join his staff as a graduate assistant for the 1991-92 season. It was the legendary coach’s final year on the sideline. Rice also recorded another 10-year stint as an assistant at UNLV (1994-2004) before he ultimately returned as head coach in 2011. He has taken his alma mater to consecutive NCAA tournaments, and he has recruited blue chip prospects such as No. 1 NBA draft pick Anthony Bennett. But his third season might be more challenging than his first two. Bennett, veteran Mike Moser (transferred to Oregon) and Savon Goodman (suspended for the season) will be unavailable. A pair of top-100 recruits (Christian Wood and Kendall Smith) should help, though.

Reggie Theus: He was an All-American for Tarkanian’s UNLV squads in the 1970s prior to a productive NBA career that included two NBA All-Star Game appearances and more than 19,000 points. Theus turned New Mexico State into a player in the WAC after he accepted the school’s head coaching gig in 2005. In his first season, the Aggies won 16 games, a 10-win improvement over the previous year. After leading NMSU to the NCAA tourney in Year 2, he became the head coach of the Sacramento Kings but was eventually fired in 2009. After that run, Theus bounced around the league as an assistant and even led the Los Angeles Defenders NBDL squad for a year. But he’ll be back in the collegiate ranks this year as the new head coach for Cal State Northridge.

Tim Grgurich: Many know Grgurich as a longtime assistant for various NBA teams (Dallas, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle). But he was crucial in UNLV’s run to the national title in 1990. For more than a decade, Grgurich helped mold former Runnin’ Rebels as an assistant under Tarkanian. Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and other former standouts were tutored by Grgurich, who was the head coach at Pitt prior to joining Tarkanian’s staff. With UNLV, Tarkanian implemented the same “amoeba” defense Grgurich utilized at Pitt.

John Welch: He played one season under Tarkanian at UNLV and eventually joined his staff at both UNLV and Fresno State. He was Tarkanian’s graduate assistant, and he was also an assistant for seven seasons during his stint with the Bulldogs. That stretch included two NCAA tournament appearances and six consecutive 20-win seasons. He moved on to the NBA and became an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets. He was a key a member of George Karl’s staff for nearly a decade. This summer, Welch joined Jason Kidd’s staff with the Brooklyn Nets.