It is said the best college coaches give their players tools to excel not only in their chosen sport but also in life.
Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar say it about their ex-UCLA coach, John Wooden; Joe Namath has said it about his coach at Alabama, Bear Bryant; and Greg Anthony says it about his former coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Jerry "Tark the Shark" Tarkanian, subject of HBO's documentary "Runnin' Rebels of UNLV," airing Saturday, March 12.
"He used to always tell me, 'The game of basketball is four-to-one mental to physical.' And as a kid, you don't understand it," says Anthony, the starting point guard on the 1990 UNLV national championship team, who is now a CBS college basketball analyst. "But there is so much more that goes into you being a successful basketball player -- your ability to interact with others, to elevate, to motivate. You have to fight for your teammates, to help them get what they want out of the game so ultimately you get what you want out of it. But there was a lot of that that I had to learn and a lot of that we all had to learn. And Coach and our staff were tremendous in that respect."
The film covers the years 1973-92, when Tarkanian's up-tempo offense and intense defense made UNLV one of the most successful programs in the nation. Under his reign, UNLV posted an astounding 509-105 record. Along with Tarkanian, some of his players are interviewed, including Reggie Theus, Stacey Augmon, Armen Gilliam and Anthony, who compares his time playing for UNLV to being a member of the cult band the Grateful Dead.
"You know, there are so many kids and so many young people that never get the opportunity to experience what we experienced," he says, "and I don't even think we appreciated the magnitude of it back then. And I was telling (a friend), 'You know, to this day, I have not had one day in my life when I have been in America where at least one person hasn't come up to me and said something positive about the experience of Runnin' Rebel basketball.' And that's when you get to appreciate the impact that you had in terms of the game of college basketball and on people in terms of their life."