Sunday, April 3, 2011

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Runnin' Rebels of UNLV (HBO)
Release Date: March 12, 2011
Running Time: 58 minutes 28 seconds

This documentary covers the mythic rise, fall and eventual redemption of one of the greatest coaches ever to get chased out of a successful D-I program by the NCAA-Jerry Tarkanian and his Runnin' Rebels of UNLV.

These cats were the real deal, and they had it all-everything to make a college president cringe, that is. They had a renegade coach who, with that Eastern European hangdog look on his face, put together a team that not only had talent in spades, but bought into his system of tenacious, pit-bull defense. Now we must mention that they were the most heavily penalized college basketball team before or since, having players suspended for everything from unpaid long-distance phone calls to unauthorized surfboard rentals at the various hotels they stayed in (can you imagine Moses Scurry on a boogie board in a hotel swimming pool? Is there a more frightening sight?), many times not knowing who was going to get suspended until the start of a particular game. The NCAA were up Tarkanian's ass like a bunch of proctologists on crack, but the Rebels never wavered.

They intimidated, bullied, and harassed their opponents right the fuck out of every gym they played in. They mercilessly terrorized their opponents into submission with long distance threes up the wazoo, hellacious defense and an interior offensive game that defied gravity, with an array of unstoppable alley-oops that no other team in the country had an answer for. Especially not Duke University...

Oh boy, where do I start with this one? The 1990 NCAA College Basketball Final pitted these take-no-prisoner 'ballers from Las Vegas against the Duke Blue Devils. Their coaches couldn't have been more different, and neither could their respective rosters. Which is what made the monumental ass-kicking The Rebels laid on these assholes all the more pleasurable. Never had I taken as much glee from a team getting summarily dismantled in front of the whole world than that night. It was a 30-point fiasco that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. To his credit Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski admitted that his team got their asses kicked, and he made no excuses whatsoever, commenting in the documentary that if they had played UNLV 20 times they would have lost each time.

What the documentary doesn't address (to it's discredit) is the penitentiary-style ass pounding Larry Johnson administered to Duke pretty-boy Christian Laettner. Johnson laid this motherfucker out like wholesale carpeting, despite giving up about 5 inches in height. I've never seen a top-tier college athlete get horsed with such conviction in all of my life. It was surgical in precision and remorseless in execution. Johnson belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame for that singular performance alone. Thank you Grandmama!!! Dreams do come true!!!

I have to give it up to Duke for coming back the following year and winning the whole thing, something the haters (like me) will never admit to. Unfortunately they did it at UNLV's expense. Though in all fairness, anyone watching the game knew something was wrong. Augmon played with his head up his ass, the Duke players came ready to rumble (shedding their tag as "softies") and they had freshman Grant Hill, who if anyone remembers had the most incredible hops of any player on either team.

But,as was par for the course, the referees wouldn't let this game play out as it should have. They took point guard Greg Anthony out of the game late in the second half on one of the most glaringly blatant calls I've ever seen. Instead of Anthony heading to the line to complete an and-one after hitting a layup, he gets called for his fifth personal foul, and the Rebels had to play without it's leader for the last 5 minutes of the game. Still in all they only lost by two points. Given the circumstance the game shouldn't have been as close as it was, but when the refs don't let the players decide the outcome of the game, you know what's up.

The next year, the Rebels managed to enjoy a 26-2 record despite being unable to partake in the tournament due to NCAA sanctions dating back to before Tarkanian was even born. But it was to prove bittersweet, as Tark was run out of town by some jive-ass good ol' boy school president from Texas who had the stupid and patently absurd idea that the university was bigger than the college program. The other thing that did Tark in was the infamous photo of three UNLV players (Anderson Hunt, Moses Scurry and David Butler) chillin' in a hot tub in the home of Richard "The Fixer" Perry, who Nevada officials were considering "black booking" (banning) from the entire Vegas strip for being a cheater. "Perry was convicted in 1974 for his part in a harness-racing betting scandal in New York and for conspiracy to commit sports bribery in the notorious Boston College point-shaving case of 1981"(sentence quoted from a Sports Illustrated article dated July 8, 1991), so the end for Tarkanian at UNLV became a foregone conclusion.

Let's not sugarcoat what went on at UNLV. Tark went out of his way to recruit questionable characters, for lack of a better term. Lloyd Daniels became the posterboy for these types of players, but let's not forget the infamous Richie Adams, a 6-8 Bronx playground legend who is currently serving time for murder. Tark even went so far as to pay a recruiting visit to a player while he was in reform school, the 6-10 Clifford Allen. Then there were was all the other stuff going on, like payments to players and all other types of illegal activity. With the NCAA up Tarkanian's ass, it was only a matter of time that he would get run out of Vegas.

Tarkanian got his in the end, with the NCAA having to dole out a check for $2.5 million dollars for all the shit they put him through, proof that they did not want the program at UNLV to see any more success. Make of that what you will. But what those bastards will never take from us are the memories of one of the most talented and best-coached college teams that ever played.

Long Live Tark the Shark!!!

Here are some youtube clips of an interview with some of the guys from that mythical 1990 team-

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