David Rice influenced by father's 20 years as coach

Linda Rice always hoped her son David would become a banker or a lawyer. But she knew the reality.

Her husband, Lowell, had coached high school basketball for 20 years, and if it was good enough for him, she knew it was good enough for Dave and his younger brother, Grant.

That Dave Rice is UNLV's new coach might be a surprise to some. But no one should be shocked that he's coaching basketball. It was simply meant to be.

"I think it's in their genes. It's something they really like to do," Linda Rice said of her sons.

Dave has coached college basketball since 1991, and Grant just finished his 10th year as the boys coach at Bishop Gorman High School.

Dave's love of the game started as a youngster in Claremont, Calif.

"I remember shooting baskets for hours with my dad," he said. "That was the best time of my life -- to be with him, sharing something we both love."

Lowell Rice recalls when the family lived in Kenya while he and Linda were teaching high school in the late 1970s as part of a missionary program for their church and he constructed a court so his boys could play basketball.

"I had a leftover 4-by-4 square piece of plywood and I nailed it to a tree outside our house and put a rim on it," Lowell said. "Dave was probably 8 or 9 and he would be outside all the time shooting."

When they were inside, they would listen to basketball. Lowell would dial his shortwave radio to the Armed Forces Network at 2 a.m. and wake up Dave to listen together to Chick Hearn's play-by-play of Los Angeles Lakers games.

The family returned to California in 1980, and Lowell coached the boys basketball team at Claremont High. He eventually got to coach a sharp-shooting small forward with great range -- Dave Rice. More important, he had another coach on the floor.

"(Dave) always had a high basketball IQ," Lowell said. "Both he and Grant were exceptionally bright, on and off the court. (Dave) was never hard to coach even though I was harder on him than the other kids. But he never gave me any problems. I think he understood."

By then, Linda had accepted the fact that her sons were not going to be financiers or attorneys. But she did influence them in a major way.

"I always told them to remember who they were," she said. "They got so sick of hearing it. But I didn't want them to forget, and they listened to me, thank God."

Dave said: "It goes back to the training Grant and I got at home growing up. I had so much respect for my parents. I didn't want to disappoint them."

But when did Lowell know Dave was serious about coaching?

"He was going for his M.B.A. at UNLV during (Rollie) Massimino's first year, and he would drive to Claremont from Las Vegas to help me on the bench," Lowell said, recalling the 1992-93 season. "I had Grant playing for me at that time, and Dave would come up with plays and they always worked.

"I knew right then that not only was he going to coach, but he was going to be a really good coach because of how hard he worked and how dedicated he was."

Dave saw it as an opportunity to gain experience. He had already spent a year under Jerry Tarkanian, who saw something in him and invited him to be part of his staff in 1991 after he graduated and had begun work on his M.B.A.

"I was ready to take the LSAT," Dave said of the test for law school. "But when Coach Tark offered me a chance to be part of his staff, I decided not to bother with the LSAT."

And with it went Linda Rice's last hope for a chance to have a briefcase-toting, writ-writing son. Instead, she got an extended version of her husband, only far more successful -- at least on the court.

"This has exceeded our expectations," Lowell said. "We thought it was terrific what he had done previously at UNLV. And he had great experiences at Utah State and (Brigham Young). But it's been remarkable when you look at all the things that have allowed this to come together.

"What we're proudest of is the fact that success hasn't changed Dave. Or Grant, for that matter. They are still respectful of people and of the game. As parents, you can't ask for more."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.