Las Vegas Sun

October 26, 2021

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The coaches who have led the Rebels through the decades

Tarkanian in action

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UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian talks with guard Eric Booker duing a game in 1983.

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UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger greets fans as the Rebels get ready to depart for Tulsa and the NCAA basketball tournament Wednesday, March 16, 2011.

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UNLV head basketball coach Bill Bayno reacts as UNLV hangs in against UCLA during UCLA's 89-82 victory Saturday, Dec. 23, l995, in Las Vegas. UNLV (1-5), which had not won since its season opener, never quit despite trailing by 20 points on several occasions early in the second half.

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UNLV head coach Max Good directs his team against Cincinnati from the sidelines in the second game of the Las Vegas Showdown at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Saturday, Dec. 16, 2000. Good was promoted to head coach after the university relieved former head coach Bill Bayno of his duties on Dec. 12.

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Rollie Massimino, who led Villanova's storied run to the 1985 NCAA championship and coached UNLV after Jerry Tarkanian, died Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, after a long battle with cancer. He was 82.

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Jay Spoonhour

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Wynn odds on who will be the next UNLV head basketball coach.

The following is a history of UNLV basketball coaches, along with Sun sports editor Ray Brewer’s take on their tenure at the helm.

Michael Drakulich (1958 to 1963): Drakulich, who doubled as the university’s athletic director, was the program’s first coach when the team played home games at the Dula Memorial Center on Bonanza Road and Las Vegas Boulevard. And it wasn’t UNLV back then; it was Nevada Southern University.

Drakulich went 68-45 in five years at the helm, also coaching the school’s baseball and golf teams. He’s in the first UNLV athletics hall of fame class.

Brewer’s take: I’m all about multi-tasking, and Drakulich definitely had a full plate of responsibilities. Give him credit for getting the program started.


Ed Gregory (1963 to 1965): Gregory went 40-15 in two years and coached the program to its first national ranking. In the 1964-65 season, his team earned the program’s first berth into what is now the NCAA tournament.

Brewer’s take: It’s tough to find anything bad to say about a guy who won 73 percent of his games.


Rolland Todd (1965 to 1970): Todd is one of the program’s most respected coaches, posting a 96-50 mark in five seasons and appearing in three NCAA tournaments. During his stay, the school went from Nevada Southern to UNLV and joined the West Coast Athletic Conference. He left after the 1970 season to coach the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers.

Brewer’s take: Todd’s accomplishments speak for themselves. He’s a guy who is, unfortunately, not mentioned enough as being one of the school’s all-time greats.


John Bayer (1970 to 1973): Bayer went 44-36 in three seasons, with his best season coming in 1970-71 when the Rebels went 16-10.

Brewer’s take: The Rebels were 14-14 in Bayer’s last year, which turned out to be one of the best things to happen to the program. Bayer was replaced by Jerry Tarkanian.


Jerry Tarkanian (1973 to 1992): Tarkanian led UNLV to four Final Four appearances in his 19-year run, winning the 1990 national championship in compiling a 509-105 record and becoming one of college basketball’s all-time great coaches.

The court at the Thomas & Mack Center is dedicated in his honor. The glory years during Tarkanian’s tenure have never — and possibly never will — be duplicated.

Brewer’s take: Tark is a legend in this city. Under his watch, Rebels home games were the hottest ticket in a city known for its legendary shows.


Rollie Massimino (1992 to 1994): Massimino is the most-hated coach in program history, eventually leaving after two seasons when it was revealed he had a secret contract with UNLV President Robert Maxson for a higher salary.

Brewer’s take: Following a legend is always tough, especially when you are cutting side-deals with the university president blamed for forcing Tarkanian out.


Tim Grgurich (1994-1995): Grgurich, Tark’s top assistant, left the team after seven games for health reasons. He had a 2-5 record. He was one of three coaches during the 1994-95 season. He would go on to spend several years as an assistant in the NBA, where he was considered one of the top teachers in the game.

Brewer’s take: Grgurich was a link to past successes but ultimately didn’t enjoy being a head coach. He’s much better as an assistant.


Howie Landa and Cleveland Edwards: The assistant coaches combined to post a 10-11 record after Grgurich left.

Brewer’s take: After the mess with Tarkanian and Massimino, the program reached arguably its lowest point. Kudos to Landa and Edwards for keeping it together.


Bill Bayno (1995 to 2000): Bayno went 94-64 in five-plus seasons at the helm of the program, coaching the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament in 1998 and 2000 — the first time they had advanced since losing to Duke in the 1991 Final Four.

Bayno’s run, however, was tainted with NCAA recruiting violations. As a result, the program was banned from the 2001 NCAA Tournament and placed on a four-year probation.

Brewer’s take: Bayno was only 32 years old when he was hired at UNLV and got too caught up in living the Las Vegas lifestyle. But he was a good recruiter and brought the program back to its winning ways.


Max Good (2000-2001): Good was a respectable 13-9 after taking over for Bayno in the middle of the season. He’s now the coach at Loyola Marymount.

Brewer’s take: Good was very intense and demanded a maximum effort from his players. He was a great interim solution.


Charlie Spoonhour (2001 to 2004): Spoonhour went 54-31 in two-plus seasons and led the Rebels to the second round of the NIT in his first year.

Brewer’s take: Spoonhour was a safe hire after the program was hit with probation following the Bayno era.


Jay Spoonhour (2004): Jay Spoonhour went 6-4 in closing out the season after his father stepped down.

Brewer’s take: The expectations didn’t change under Jay Spoonhour, who nearly led the Rebels to the Mountain West Conference Tournament finals.


Lon Kruger (2004 to 2011): Kruger led UNLV to the NCAA Tournament in four of the last five seasons, highlighted by a 2007 run to the Sweet 16. He went 161-71 in seven seasons.

Brewer’s take: Kruger brought the Rebels back to national prominence. More importantly, he embraced and honored UNLV’s traditions.

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