Hall of Fame selection surprises ex-UNLV swim coach Jim Reitz

Updated May 10, 2018 - 6:33 pm

Jim Reitz paused during a phone interview to shout instructions to someone in his adult swim class.

The reporter asked where he was holding practice.

“Jim Reitz Pool,” the former UNLV swimming and diving coach said. “Still so surreal looking at my name up there.”

Reitz led the Rebels for 35 years and guided the men’s and women’s programs to a combined 14 conference championships before retiring in 2015.

His accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed, as the university named the pool inside of Buchanan Natatorium after Reitz in September.

The Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame also didn’t forget about Reitz’s feats.

Reitz, 67, will be inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, along with Forrest Griffin, Al Bernstein, Armon Gilliam, Rossi Ralenkotter and the Las Vegas Thunder hockey team. The induction ceremony will be at Orleans Arena.

“I was certainly surprised,” Reitz said. “In our sport, we’re pretty invisible. I’m humbled and in awe of the other people being honored. It was unexpected, and it’s certainly nice to get recognition in our hometown.”

After taking a year off, Reitz returned to coaching and has practices four times a week for the Las Vegas Masters and Team Rebel Aquatics.

When he’s not by the pool, Reitz is a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Premier Realty.

“Retirement didn’t sit well with me,” said Reitz, who started his first year at UNLV in 1980. “I was 100 percent engaged, like 24/7, for almost 50 years with swimming, and then I went from 100 miles per hour to zero. I’m a very hyper guy.”

Griffin, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, also couldn’t stay away from his sport after retirement in 2012.

Griffin serves as the vice president of athlete development for the Las Vegas-based UFC. He won the inaugural season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and has signature victories over Rich Franklin, Mauricio Rua, Tito Ortiz and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Ralenkotter, the president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, was instrumental in bringing the National Finals Rodeo, the NBA All-Star Game, two NASCAR race weekends and other notable sporting events to Las Vegas.

“Having grown up in Las Vegas and played sports in town, my love of sports is really a significant thing for me, and I’m very proud to be a part of a great sports hall of fame,” Ralenkotter said.

Gilliam played for the UNLV men’s basketball team from 1984 to 1987 under coach Jerry Tarkanian. He averaged 23.2 points during his senior year when the Rebels advanced to the Final Four.

The former second overall pick of the Phoenix Suns died in 2011 at age 47.

Bernstein was known as ESPN’s boxing voice from 1980 to 2003. He’s currently a boxing analyst for Showtime.

Before the Golden Knights arrived, Las Vegas was crazy for the Thunder, an International Hockey League team that was founded in 1993.

The Thunder averaged 8,000 fans during home games at the Thomas & Mack Center in their first season.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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