LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — We continue our celebration of Vegas through the decades with a look at the sports scene in the 1970s, which really kicked off with the Runnin’ Rebels.
The team sports scene was pretty lean in Las Vegas until 1973, when Jerry Tarkanian brought the funk and the dunk to the desert.
“We knew what was going on,” said former UNLV basketball player Ricky Sobers. “We knew what was special, and we had a very unique opportunity to play for a great coach and to put a program on the map.”
First, they had to put fans in the seats at the old Las Vegas Convention Center, and they had to win. Tark and his towel went to the NCAA tournament in year two.
“He really was the second coming of Elvis, if you like to use that term,” remembered Sobers. “I think he probably had the most impact on Las Vegas holistically.”
UNLV went from being known as ‘Tumbleweed Tech’ to Final 4. The Hardway 8 were pioneers.
“Glen Gondrezick, Eddie Owens, Reggie Theus, Sam Smith, Tony Smith, Robert Smith, that was a great team and still probably the best team we’ve ever had here,” said Dick Calvert, UNLV basketball PA announcer.
In his seven Runnin’ Rebel seasons of the ’70s, Tark went 189-41. UNLV basketball was the biggest show in town, and the empire would only grow. This was until he left, leaving the city always wanting more.