One week ago, Jerry Tarkanian celebrated his 80th birthday. His walk is getting slower, but he still talks basketball every day, and his memories of all things UNLV are as sharp as ever.
Tarkanian was intrigued by the Review-Journal’s project to rank the top 100 players in Rebels history. He disagreed with several of the rankings but never doubted at least one.
Larry Johnson, UNLV’s leading scorer on the 1990 NCAA championship team and the 1991 Final Four team, should be a “unanimous choice,” Tarkanian said. Johnson got 21 of 25 first-place votes.
“Larry stood out way above everyone. I think he was the best by far,” said Tarkanian, who ranked Armon Gilliam second and Stacey Augmon third. “Armon should be No. 2. He was certainly the second-best player I coached at UNLV.”
Tarkanian coached the Rebels for 19 of their 52 seasons. Fifty-one of the 100 players, including 17 of the top 20, are from the Tarkanian era (1973 to 1992).
“Everybody has different opinions. It’s a tough job,” said Tarkanian, who studied the Review-Journal’s rankings and offered his opinions:
3. Sidney Green only had one great year for us. But his senior year was great. He’s in the top 10 but not the top five.
5. Eddie Owens was amazing. He almost never missed a midrange shot. But he went back to Houston and I never heard from him. Something pissed him off at UNLV. Eddie was a scoring machine. But I don’t put him in the top five.
6. I loved Reggie Theus. It was John Wooden’s last year at UCLA, and he didn’t recruit Reggie. I went to the full-court press because of him. Reggie was a great player. He wasn’t No. 1, though. I’ll put him No. 4.
8. I love Freddie Banks. He was a clutch shooter. God, he hit big shots for us. His ranking is about right.
11. Anderson Hunt is ranked about right. On my birthday, we watched the tape of the 1989 game against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament. Anderson hit the winning 3-pointer. That was one of the most memorable games I coached.
12. Ricky Sobers is one of my favorites. I would rank him No. 5. Ricky or Greg Anthony (7) is fifth.
20. Lewis Brown is too high. He was a pain in the ass in a lot of ways.
21. Richie Adams could have been in the top five. Boyd Grant, the Fresno State coach, said he thought Richie was the best player he had ever seen in the conference.
22. Marcus Banks is too low. I thought he was really good.
23. “Sudden” Sam Smith was probably the best shooter we ever had. He’s in the top 20.
24. Jackie Robinson is too high. Jackie couldn’t shoot. He could jump to the moon, but he couldn’t shoot.
28. David Butler is better than Dalron Johnson (27).
29. Mark Wade is too low. Mark should probably be in the top 20.
31. Anthony Jones is ranked too low. He was a hell of a player. I’d say he should be in the top 20. He was better than Gerald Paddio (19), Bob Florence (17) and Larry Anderson (16). Paddio could shoot the ball. But I used to tell him not to pass the ball because he would turn it over.
40. I think Reggie Manuel was overrated.
61. I thought Dexter Boney for us was as good as J.R. Rider. Dexter was a hell of a player and a great defender. There’s no question J.R. had more talent, though. Dexter should be in the top 30.
73. I thought Rene Rougeau was a really good player, and he should be ranked higher.
89. I don’t think Karl James should be ranked.
97. Michael Loyd should not be on the list. He hardly played for us his last year, and he transferred to Azusa Pacific.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.