Saturday, May 5, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Dave Rice still doesn’t feel comfortable in a suit jacket.
Rice, UNLV’s basketball coach, never wore one as an assistant, and after the Rebels shot 4-for-23 in the first half of his first exhibition game as a head coach, he took it off and hasn’t coached in one since.
But for certain occasions, like Friday’s “An Evening with Dave Rice,” the first event for the Dave Rice Foundation, he’s willing to make an exception. Rice and his family, wife Mindy and sons Travis and Dylan, played host in the ballroom at the Palms for an event held to benefit the foundation and the UNLV Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Rice is the chairman of the foundation while Mindy is the secretary and treasurer. Their youngest son, Dylan, who is in third grade, was diagnosed with autism at a young age, making this a very personal cause for the family.
The cocktail reception included nearly a dozen tables full of items up for bid in a silent auction, including sports memorabilia from the Rebels and an assortment of other athletes, as well as unique items such as an autographed James Taylor guitar. A VIP four-pack of tickets to the Rebels’ home game against San Diego State this season was the first item to go off the market at its buy-it-now price of $2,400.
The proceeds from the tickets and the auctions go to the foundation, which will then present a grant to the UNLV CASD and then a few other charities throughout the year.
Just before the event kicked off, Dave and Mindy spoke with the Sun about their first event and the realization of an idea they had before returning to Las Vegas. The following is edited for clarity:
Sun: From the time you first had this idea, to the formation of the foundation and now to your first event, what has the process been like for you?
Mindy: Wow, it’s been a whirlwind. We’ve talked for a few years about doing something, we just didn’t know what. Then when David got the job here we had this platform to do what we wanted to.
Dave: We didn’t know what to expect. We, for a number of years, have felt the importance of doing something to give back for parents who are going through the same thing we went through with Dylan and our journey.
Sun: How has the experience of putting this event together compared to what you expected?
Mindy: It has been overwhelming for our first year. It’s incredible. This community steps up, but they have stepped up in a huge way for this. We were thinking, when we started out, that if we could get 200 or 250 people that would be huge for us. We have over 400 people and we’ve actually had to turn people away because we just don’t have the room this year.
Dave: Overwhelming, and another word would be humbling. It’s something that’s so important to us and for people to share our vision or for us to share their vision is something that means a lot to us.
Sun: How much has the success of the basketball team factored into the support the foundation has received?
Dave: I think it definitely has a hand. We’re Las Vegas’ team and we’ve made an emphasis from day one to share our success and adversity with the community. I think it’s a community, too, that is proud of our program and the fact that we not only want to have a goal of winning games on the floor but we want to make a difference.
Sun: How does the UNLV CSAD help families who have children with autism?
Mindy: If you think there’s a problem, if you get a diagnosis, they should be your first call. They will give you the road map to start your journey.
Sun: With the first event a success, where does the Dave Rice Foundation go from here?
Mindy: We want to build on it and work with the other foundations that do things for autism in the community and work together. We all have the same goal in mind, so working together to reach that goal is our plan.
Sun: There are autographed jerseys from both you and assistant coach Stacey Augmon up for auction. Which one will go for more money?
Dave: I know if I were bidding, I’d definitely pay more for Stacey’s.