UNLV's Lon Kruger realizes he's in an enviable position by serving as the unofficial host coach of the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament.
But staging it at the Thomas & Mack Center is no guarantee the Rebels will coast to the championship game every year. "We learned that the difficult way," Kruger said.
UNLV, which won the MWC tournament in 2007 and 2008, was blown out in the first round by San Diego State in March.
Still, Kruger said, the Rebels' obvious home-court advantage is not enough of a reason to move the tournament out of Las Vegas.
"Virtually in every other way, I think everyone recognizes Vegas is the best place for the tournament," Kruger said, citing atmosphere and increases in revenue and the number of travelers.
The conference Board of Directors, which comprises the nine school presidents, agreed by voting to keep the men's and women's tournaments at the Thomas & Mack from 2011 to 2013.
Las Vegas' four-year contract to host the tournament was set to expire in 2010, and there was a push by some schools, led by Brigham Young, to move the tournament.
Other sites considered were Albuquerque, N.M., Denver, Salt Lake City and San Diego. The tournament was an attendance failure when held in Denver from 2004 to 2006.
Las Vegas Events president Pat Christenson worked with UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick to form a proposal for the Thomas & Mack. Christenson said the "credibility" of Las Vegas to guarantee ticket sales was a factor.
"In the past, the other cities really didn't compete with us on our offer. This year they did," Christenson said. "I heard it was competitive. I think in the end, if there was an overriding factor in this, it's the history we have with the conference."
New Mexico coach Steve Alford and San Diego State coach Steve Fisher have been outspoken opponents of the Thomas & Mack as the tournament site. BYU representatives lobbied hard for a change, and the vote for Las Vegas was not unanimous.
"This has been a very big issue," Hamrick said. "I've always believed this is the venue and it's the city to showcase one of our top conference events."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.