August 20, 2019 Currently: 97° | Complete forecast

A tribute to Gondo

I wanted to make it back to Las Vegas real bad for Gondo’s memorial celebration at the Thomas & Mack Center, but I just could not get out of Fresno.

I had some meetings over the past couple of days that could not be moved. They could not be reset. That’s what happens when you try to get the top brass of radio stations together.

It’s about 95 percent that my radio show is being switched to ESPN radio here, so it was entirely out of my hands.

I talked with him after he got back from having that heart transplant. He sounded very optimistic. Every time I’ve talked with him the past couple of years he told me how I should be in the (Naismith Basketball) Hall of Fame.

He would get so upset. I said, Gondo, don’t you worry about that.

He had recently come up to me and said, Coach, it’s a big crime that they don’t have Robert Smith in the UNLV Hall of Fame and that they haven’t retired his jersey.

He said, “I told (UNLV senior associate athletic director) Jerry Koloskie to take my jersey down and put Robert’s up there, because Robert deserves it.”

Isn’t that something? What a super person, and what a tough guy. He was totally fearless. Imagine, he led our team in rebounding and he was 6-feet-6.

I never saw him play until he was in an all-star game in Colorado. He did pretty well, but he wasn’t a real highly recruited player. He had contacted one of our people. Said he was interested in us.

He wanted to go to Oregon. Ducks coach Dick Harter wanted him and was ready to sign him, but they put him on hold. So he put us on hold. Oregon thought they could get Adrian Dantley.

Well, they didn’t get Dantley.

I had a speaking engagement in Flat Head Lake, Montana, and I took the whole family. We made a vacation of it. On our way back, we went through Colorado. Hey, I said, we have to go see Gondo and meet his family.

That’s when we saw him play in this all-star game. He was so happy to see us. Oregon had kept putting him off. Finally, he said, “the hell with them.”

That’s how we got him. The funny thing is Dick Harter and I became good friends. He told me on so many occasions that he kicked himself in the butt so many times because he didn’t get Gondo.

Gondo was Harter’s type of player. He had all tough guys. They beat you up, physically. Gondo fit that mold perfectly.

We played Oregon in Eugene my second season. They fouled out Ricky Sobers and beat us, 94-77. Two years later, Oregon came to Las Vegas and we beat them, 78-67.

It was a tough game. All they did was foul us. Sam Smith hyper-extended his knee. It was so physical. But Gondo loved it. He was the most physical player we ever had at UNLV.

He wouldn’t back down from anybody. He played so hard.

That first season, he was on the junior varsity team. We had a late-January trip to Los Angeles to play Loyola-Marymount. Jimmy Baker had been causing some problems, giving us some hard times.

I said, Jimmy, you’re not going. We dropped him from the road trip and brought Gondo up. That was his first start and he started from that game on.

Our whole team played hard, but Gondo epitomized it more than anybody else. He was in great condition. We ran them in weighted vests and these special shoes. They could only run on the front of their feet, on the balls of their feet.

You know those shoes, with the large area on the bottom of the front of the shoe? So you can’t run on your heels? The trainer said we risked Achilles’ tendon injuries, so we stopped that after a while.

But Gondo did everything. He was always at the front of the pack. No questions asked.

When he was a junior, we beat Houston, 116-92, in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. The Cougars had a helluva team. After the game, Guy Lewis, Houston’s coach, came up to me.

He said, “Coach, how do you get those guys to run those lanes like that, particularly that white kid? Every time, he goes full speed, he fills the lane and goes full speed?”

I told Guy that you can’t do that without a point guard like Robert Smith. Laying it in is a lotta fun, and Gondo liked that. But if you run the lane and don’t get the ball, it wouldn’t be fun. Robert and Glen were a great combination.

Gondo probably got half his points by filling the lane. He just busted his tail into those lanes and getting offensive rebounds. And he had to lead the nation in charges. He took charges on anything that moved.

He was totally fearless, that’s what I’ll remember most. And he was so steady. He’d get you 12, 13, 14 points, 8 or 9 rebounds, and he’d take 2 or 3 charges every game.

When Reggie Theus came in, we moved Gondo to the ‘four,’ at power forward. He didn’t care. He just wanted to play.

When he was in the NBA, every time he was interviewed he always talked about his UNLV years. He brought a lot of pride to so many people in the program and in the city.

When I heard Gondo passed Monday night, I just felt so bad. I had talked with him several weeks ago and it sounded like everything was going well. It shows how sudden it can be.

I will miss him dearly, but I, and anyone who met him or saw him play, will treasure my memories of Glen Gondrezick.

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