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Augmon fosters winning attitude

What happens in the NBA is no longer Stacey Augmon’s business. He has moved on, he said, to a better place.

Throwing bounce passes and making teaching points, Augmon lingered on the court with several players after UNLV’s first official basketball practice Saturday.

“I feel good,” he said. “This is a great group of kids to work with, and it’s a good fit for me.

“These kids are all attentive. You tell them once and they will do it and they will try it over and over again, and they are just willing to learn.”

After two decades in the pros, Augmon is back in school. He returned to his alma mater in early May as an assistant to coach Dave Rice. Now in mid-October, with the season a few weeks away, the reality of their reunion is coming into focus.

The Rebels will stage a Scarlet & Gray scrimmage, which is free and open to the public, at 6 p.m. today at the Thomas & Mack Center.

If Augmon were still in the NBA, where he spent the past four years as a Denver Nuggets assistant for player development, he would be locked out of the gym during a labor impasse.

“I have to put the NBA in the past. That is the past, as far as I’m concerned,” Augmon said. “I’m fortunate I came here and it worked out for me. I’m excited about being here at the university.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to be a long lockout. But I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. The decision was made because of the university and Coach Dave.”

Rice and Augmon were UNLV teammates on the 1990 NCAA championship team and 1991 Final Four team. Augmon was a first-team All-American as a senior. Rice was a reserve. They stayed in contact through the years.

When he was hired to replace Lon Kruger on April 11, Rice reached out to Augmon with a job offer.

“That’s one of the few things I do have to give myself a lot of credit for, in terms of a recruiting job, is getting him to leave the NBA and come back to UNLV,” Rice said. “You know how important the tradition of the program is to me.

“I really wanted, if it could work out, to bring a former Rebel back on our staff. There were a lot of great candidates. Stacey stood out to me, so I pursued it.”

Augmon’s attitude as a player, Rice said, hinted that coaching could be in his future.

“It goes back first to being his teammate. The thing that always stood out for me was his commitment to winning,” Rice said. “I believe guys who are great teammates as players typically have a chance to become great coaches.”

Each member of Rice’s staff is involved in all aspects of the program. Augmon’s emphasis is on player development, particularly the big guys, and working with assistant coach Justin Hutson as defensive coordinators.

Rice’s offensive system is a running game, a style of play Augmon knows all about from his 15 years as an NBA player and his career with the Rebels.

“Players say they want to run, but they don’t know the commitment that it takes,” Augmon said. “You have a comfort zone, and you have to get out of that comfort zone, and that’s just to be in tremendous shape, and a lot of guys don’t know what that is and what it takes.

“We’ve got a long way to go as far as being in shape and playing both ends of the court and not taking any possessions off. We have a long way to go, but we’re going to get them there, and it’s going to be a fun season for us.”

Junior guard Anthony Marshall said he picked up key tips just working with Augmon after Saturday’s practice.

“I was down there shooting with him, and he’s showing me some little things that play a major part in the game of basketball,” Marshall said. “I just want to get better, and I feel like he helps out a lot. It’s a very valuable asset for him to be a part of the coaching staff. He knows what it takes to be a winner.”

Augmon, who ranks No. 3 on UNLV’s all-time scoring list with 2,011 points, wants to coach the types of teams for which he starred as a player.

“I didn’t know much when I first came in, but we have a lot of talent here, and we can win,” he said. “One big thing about it is we’re going to have fun and we’re going to be fun to watch.

“When you pay your money and you come out, you want to be entertained and you also want winners, so we’re trying to put both of those together.”

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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