Saturday, April 23, 2011 | 5:25 p.m.
A brief five-minute tennis exhibition Saturday featuring the doubles team of UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck and basketball coach Dave Rice included plenty of laughable moments.
The coaches missed long, hit the ball into the net, and on a few occasions, missed the ball altogether.
But Hauck and Rice weren’t concerned with the outcome — they lost 7-4. Rather, it was being part of a community event the coaches said was most important.
They played against 1997 UNLV doubles champion Tim Blenkiron and 10-year-old Jack Hambrook — son of Rebels tennis coach Owen Hambrook — as part of the UNLV tennis team’s Senior Day festivities at the Fertitta Tennis Complex. About 100 fans attended the exhibition, which helped bring supporters to the final Rebels home tennis match of the spring.
Hauck, in his second year at the helm of the football program, is frequently part of community functions to drum up support for his team.
“It’s been awesome living here. They people have been so welcoming the last 15 months,” Hauck said. “We want to give the people a football team they can be proud of because the people have been so welcoming to us.”
Rice, who was hired two weeks ago as the Rebels’ basketball coach, swung and missed on the first ball hit his way. However, later in the match, he recorded an ace. Hauck’s day included a backhand winner that wasn't returned.
“It hurt, man. The victory was secondary to that,” Blenkiron jokingly said of Hauck’s winner. “I’m still feeling that to be honest with you.”
The exhibition was played during a break between the doubles and singles rounds of UNLV’s 5-2 win against San Diego State. Hauck and Rice enjoyed themselves, mingling with fans and greeting tennis players after their match.
“It says a lot that they came out and did an event like this,” said Blenkiron, who oversees the No Quit Tennis Academy in Las Vegas. Jack is one of his pupils.
“It shows that it is not about football or basketball, but the university as a whole,” he continued. “Before I walked out, I had a lot of respect for those guys. Obviously, the jobs they have are very difficult, and they are very skilled and qualified. But that is only one piece of the puzzle. Being a team player and bringing the university together is also important.”
Mehdi Bouras, UNLV’s lone senior, picked up a 7-6 (2), 6-2 win against San Diego State’s Giovanni Vaglietti to lead the way for the No. 56-ranked Rebels.
“We thought this would be a fun thing to do to help send our only senior off in style during the last home match of the season,” Owen Hambrook said in a statement. “I want to thank Coach Hauck and Coach Rice for being such good sports.”
Even if that means some awkward swings of the tennis racquet.
“It was fun to come out and spend some time with coach Hauck,” said Rice, who afterward returned to his office at the Thomas & Mack Center to continue working in his new job. “I have a lot of respect for him and what he is trying to build here.”