Now in the middle of her sixth season as assistant coach for the UNLV women’s basketball program, Mia Bell has been a fixture on campus for more than a decade after the local product graduated from Durango High School. After choosing to play her college ball for another former Lady Rebel player – current head coach Kathy Olivier – Bell went on to start 103 games in her memorable career, which included four game-winning shots for the Scarlet & Gray.
You are the first Las Vegan to both play and coach for the Lady Rebels. How does that make you feel?
Honored! Anytime you get an opportunity to coach at your alma mater — that’s special. (She earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2013). Anyone who knows me understands how I feel about the city of Las Vegas and the passion I have for UNLV.
What was it like for you growing up in Las Vegas?
It was fun but I imagine growing up here would be like growing up anywhere else. The only difference was coming from Chicago originally, I was used to playing outside with my friends and here, it was so hot, there weren’t a lot of kids outside. That’s where basketball came into play. I started going to practice with my boy cousins and then we would play on the court outside. One of the perks of living in Vegas was that we had Circus Circus and the Mirage and Treasure Island free shows. We would go there quite a bit on the weekend.
Were you good at other sports growing up? Why basketball?
Growing up I didn’t play any other organized sports. We would play football out in the street — I was the running back (LOL). We also would race a lot, which led me to running track in high school. But I loved basketball so I decided to focus solely on that after my freshman year.
What is your greatest memory as a UNLV player?
There are so many great moments. A big one came to open my junior year. We played at the Iowa Hawkeye Challenge, and we ended up beating Iowa in the championship game. To open the season on the road and in such a tough environment was awesome. I remember the entire team being so dialed and it was a great start to a fantastic season.
What is your greatest memory as a UNLV coach?
The 2018 (regular-season) conference championship. It was a rewarding experience to see the girls cut down those nets. They worked so hard the summer before and into the season. That is easily my favorite memory!
I mainly enjoy spending time with my family. As I get older I realize how fortunate I was to play here and getting to be around my family, especially having my grandmother — who passed away in October — be at all my games as a player and coach. I’m so thankful for that.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I don’t know how to swim. Even though I can’t swim, I still went surfing in Hawaii. A little crazy, but it was awesome!
What books are on your bedside table?
I have three books there right now:
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
- How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell
- Hearts of Fire by Gracia Burnham
What is the most listened-to song on your playlist?
I have actually stopped listening to music. Nowadays it would be any podcast from Ed Mylett.
What is your favorite part of living in Las Vegas?
That there is a little bit of everything here. Whether you want to experience the nightlife on the Strip or venture off to Red Rock Canyon, there’s something for everyone. I like hiking and doing things outdoors and I’m also a foodie, so Vegas has it all for me.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Cracker Barrel pancakes — I can’t get enough. I even buy their pancake mix and syrup to make at home.
What’s your biggest pet peeve (at work or in life)?
Negativity. Life is about perspective — how you see things and how you react is how it will be.
My ideal summer vacation is?
Bali, Indonesia. A relaxing and peacefully perfect place to get mentally recharged.
Favorite place you’ve ever visited with the team?
Hawaii. We went to Pearl Harbor and did some snorkeling as a team.
Finish this sentence, "If I couldn't coach anymore, I would like to...”
I would start my own training and nutrition business. Definitely something that still connects me to the sport.
Any tips for success?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I think it’s important to face your fears.
Does any certain motto motivate you?
Two things: Stay present and remain grateful!