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Former UNLV women’s basketball coach Dan Ayala dies at 82

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Steve Marcus

Kathy Olivier laughs with Dan Ayala, former head coach of the UNLV women’s basketball team, after a news conference Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center, where she was named head coach of the Lady Rebels. Olivier, who was most recently head coach at UCLA, played at UNLV under Ayala during the 1979-80 season.

Former UNLV women’s basketball coach Dan Ayala died Monday in Las Vegas at the age of 82.

Ayala coached the Lady Rebels’ from 1975 through 1980 and compiled the highest winning percentage (.827) in the program’s history. UNLV recorded four 20-win seasons with Ayala at the helm, and the team advanced to four AIAW Regionals (prior to the NCAA’s institution of a women’s national-championship tournament).

Current Lady Rebels coach Kathy Olivier played for Ayala in 1979-80, his final season at UNLV.

In a statement, Olivier credited Ayala as a coaching mentor.

"Coach Ayala, he's the one that brought me to Las Vegas and UNLV, he taught me so much, not just about basketball but about life," Olivier said. "He constantly pushed and made us better, I know when I'm speaking I'm speaking for a lot of people, both male and female, that he made a huge impact on our life. He's a tough guy who had a huge heart who would do anything for his players and family. After I came back to UNLV, he would always call to check up on the Lady Rebels, and every time we talked he would always give me a piece of advice."

Ayala first came to Las Vegas in 1973 as an assistant coach for the Runnin’ Rebels men’s basketball team, as part of Jerry Tarkanian’s first UNLV staff. After two years under Tarkanian, Ayala moved over to the women’s side as the Lady Rebels’ head coach and led the team to a 26-5 record in 1975-76.

After running up a 109-23 record over five seasons, Ayala retired from coaching and stayed in the Las Vegas area.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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