Dan Ayala, who owns the highest winning percentage among UNLV women’s basketball coaches, died Monday in hospice care. He was 82.
Ayala coached the Lady Rebels from 1975 to 1980, going 109-23 for an 82.7 winning percentage. The next closest coach is Jim Bolla, who won 71.4 percent of his games (300-120) from 1982 to 1996.
UNLV made four regional appearances in the five seasons Ayala was coach. The Lady Rebels then were under the umbrella of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
UNLV won at least 20 games four times under Ayala, including going 26-5 in his first season and the program’s second. The only time UNLV failed to reach 20 victories was when it played an 18-game schedule in 1976-77 and went 14-4.
One of his top players was current coach Kathy Olivier, a former All-American. Ayala attended the news conference when Olivier was introduced as UNLV’s coach in 2008.
“Coach Ayala, he’s the one that brought me to Las Vegas and UNLV,” Olivier said in a statement. “He taught me so much, not just about basketball but about life. He constantly pushed and made us better. I know when I’m speaking I’m speaking for a lot of people, both male and female, that he made a huge impact on our life. He’s a tough guy who had a huge heart who would do anything for his players and family. After I came back to UNLV, he would always call to check up on the Lady Rebels, and every time we talked, he would always give me a piece of advice.”
Ayala became the women’s head coach after serving as an assistant on the men’s side under Jerry Tarkanian for two seasons.