Olivier ready to lead Lady Rebels again

As Kathy Olivier spoke from behind the podium Tuesday, she saw her new players seated in the first two rows and plenty of familiar faces, from Dan Ayala to Tina Kunzer-Murphy to Bob Blum -- links to her UNLV past and Lady Rebels present.

In introducing Olivier as its new women's basketball coach, UNLV made the rare move of bringing back one of its own.

Olivier, 48, is just the third former UNLV athlete to coach his or her old sport. Wayne Nunnely in football and Kunzer-Murphy in women's tennis were the others. Former men's soccer player Dan Abdalla coached the women's program.

Of course, coaching at her alma mater will be nice for Olivier for sentimental reasons, but she said it should pay off in practical ways as well.

"I think it gives me a definite advantage with recruiting," Olivier said. "I can talk about the community support. As a player, the community was very, very supportive. I met some great people that still stay in touch with me."

Known then as Kathy Ricks, she averaged 16.3 points for UNLV in the 1979-80 season and 20.2 the following year.

"I think she can relate to the players because she played," UNLV center Shamela Hampton said.

Details of Olivier's contract will be provided to the Board of Regents at its June 12-13 meeting in Reno. Regents will have to approve the deal, which means it's longer than three years, and Olivier's salary is expected to be in the range of the $227,500 that previous coach Regina Miller remains due to make next year in the final year of her contract.

Olivier inherits a team that returns nearly everyone from an 8-22 season. She has three available scholarships but said those could go to transfers or next year's recruiting class, rather than be given out simply to fill numbers.

She said a more urgent priority will be assembling a coaching staff.

Olivier was UCLA's coach the past 15 seasons before resigning last month to go into administration. She went 232-208 with five NCAA Tournament appearances, including one Elite Eight trip.

UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick laid out a series of parameters for the job that he said Olivier met, such as being a veteran head coach who made -- and advanced in -- NCAA Tournaments.

"The search kept going back to one place, to one person," Hamrick said.

Winning will make Olivier even more popular than she was at the on-campus news conference.

The audience included her former UNLV basketball coach (Ayala), her former tennis coach (Kunzer-Murphy) and the current broadcaster (Blum) who called Olivier's games. And there were others who went back to her days as a player.

"This is something I really want to do," Olivier said. "For them to contact me and make this a reality, I'm very, very excited about it.

"At UCLA, I loved my experience there. I had a great, great run. They were ready to take care of me for life, and this is the one university that I said I'd look at."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.