Thomas & Mack, Part I

Shark Bytes: Players on a Team

UNLV legend Jerry Tarkanian discusses how many Rebels it really takes to make a basketball team.

I remember when they were planning to build a new arena, and I thought a seating capacity of 12,000 would be great.

“Wildcat” Morris and a bunch of them said, no, we’ll go to 18,500. I didn’t think we’d fill it.

They were right.

The Thomas & Mack Center is a very nice place. I was surprised from the beginning what good crowds we were getting. Going from the Convention Center to the new arena, I didn’t think we could fill the place.

I was shocked. Seven of our first 16 games had at least 14,000 people, and all of them had more than 10,000.

They asked my input, but I’m not into any of that stuff. When we moved here, Lois had our house built. I didn’t know what it looked like until I moved in.

She did it all. Met with builders, followed up … she did it all. I just moved in. I don’t get into that. Right now, she’s re-modeling our condo in San Diego and I won’t even look at the plans. I’ll just go in and put my feet up on the coffee table.

I don’t get into things like that. I don’t know anything about that stuff. When I first saw my office in the Thomas & Mack, it was so nice. I told our athletic director I don’t need one that big and nice.

Susan Molasky and Lois said, No, you have to leave it like this. When a new coach comes in after you, they might need a big one. I said, all right. I didn’t need a big focus.

I was shocked the first time I visited Lon Kruger in the office. I walked in and couldn’t believe how nice it was, and I thought it was nice when I was in there.

I thought our locker room was great, then Rollie Massimino came in and re-did all the locker rooms. Had new doors put on the office. In fact, when Tim Grgurich took over he wouldn’t go into the office.

He said it was too nice. He turned it into a team room.

But that is one heck of an arena. I don’t remember the exhibition game against the University of Victoria, the first game in the building. Or the season opener, a 92-71 victory over Reno.

But I do remember the third game in the Mack, an 86-72 win over West Virginia. My good friend Gale Catlett coached that team and they were pretty tough.

It was a pretty tough game, too. He was a tough guy and that’s how his teams played. West Virginia was running UCLA’s high-post offense. I thought we could take them out of it.

But they did a good job and stayed with it. It was a closer game than I thought it would be. We were so good at pressure defense. We were able to force them out of that set.

A few weeks later, on Dec. 30, we played top-ranked Georgetown. THAT was a crazy crowd, 17,040. That was our biggest crowd of the season and it was an incredible game.

A great, great game. We had it won, then there were two horrible calls. The first was a non-call at the end of regulation. Patrick Ewing bumped Freddie Banks.

Freddie was driving the baseline and Ewing bumped him out of bounds. There was no call. We were up three or four points. It went to overtime. I forget the second bad call, but it was in overtime.

They beat us, 69-67, clinching it with a baseline dunk. It didn’t work out for us.

Everyone in the crowd had towels. They were waving them. It was a crazy atmosphere.

I have too many memories of the place for one column, so check in next time for more of my thoughts about the Thomas & Mack Center.

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