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Runnin' Rebel Returns Home

Basketball coach Dave Rice talks about his return to his alma mater, the hardest game of every season, and the importance of his his father.
Athletics  |  May 9, 2011  |  By Cate Weeks
Runnin' Rebels head coach Dave Rice (UNLV Photo Services)

Dave Rice is the first former Runnin' Rebel to become head basketball coach. He was a reserve guard under Coach Jerry Tarkanian for the 1990 championship team and the '91 team that lost to Duke in the Final Four. His first coaching job was as an assistant at UNLV (1991-92 and 1994-04). He went on as an assistant at Utah State (2004-05), and Brigham Young (2005-11). He and his wife, Mindy Wright Rice ('94 Business Administration), have two sons, Travis, 13, and Dylan, 8.

I have a picture of our team from '91 that I always hang in my office. It's a drawing of all of us and has a quote from Markum Edwin. It goes: "There is a destiny that makes us brothers."

I think what those of us on the team remember is the camaraderie. It set a standard for me as a coach. It's not about recruiting the best five players; it's the best five who can complement each other.

Yes, there's no doubt that, ultimately, our job comes down to wins -- I don't ever forget that. But, one of the reasons I coach is because of the great experience I had at UNLV on the court and in the classroom and socially. You have to remember that after the game you're sending men out into the world, out into your community.

My last game -- the Duke game -- was hard. Maybe that's one reason I accepted Coach Tark's offer to coach. My competitive juices were still flowing and I needed some closure.

The last game of every season is the hardest, win or lose. The seniors you've gone to battle with will never come back. It's bittersweet. Your next team might be better, but it will never be the same.

I think that managing a team is no different than managing a family. It's all about give and take for the good of the whole.

It's interesting the longer we've been married, the more competitive Mindy's become in terms of the teams I'm coaching. I don't think she loves sports, but she loves watching her family compete.

[Coaching runs in the family. Rice's father coached high school basketball in California. Younger brother, Grant, played for the Rebels 1997-98 and is now the head coach at Bishop Gorman High School.]

I've watched Grant develop as a coach. He's so good at developing players over time. We both like the up-tempo transition game. We're both really competitive and spend a lot of time just trying to figure out our players. Then a lot of what we do is just based on feel and experience.

I can remember being at my dad's practices when I was young and chasing balls that were way too big for me to lift. It was a way to spend time with my dad.

I love the movie Field of Dreams -- the scene where the dad comes back toward the end and they play catch. It reflects the way I related to my dad when I was a kid.

My 13-year-old plays basketball and baseball. I love to just be his fan. It's not hard to take off my coach hat. I'm pretty calm there. It's funny to watch all the parents get wound up around me.

He comes to practice a lot. When we told him on Sunday that I'd received the job offer, he said, "Dad, I think it's time. I've made an awful lot of shots at the Marriott Center. It's time to make a bunch at the Thomas & Mack."