Posted: Monday January 17, 2011 10:16AM ; Updated: Tuesday January 18, 2011 10:24AM
Richard Deitsch
Richard Deitsch>MEDIA CIRCUS

Media Circus (cont.)

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HBO Gearing Up For "Runnin' Rebels of UNLV"

HBO revisits UNLV's glory days in a new documentary set to air on March 7.
John W. McDonough/SI

It was the most lopsided title game in history, and the image spoke to everything UNLV represented in the 1990s: strength, power and flash. The front of the April 9, 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated featured UNLV's Moses Scurry soaring over Duke's Brian Davis and Christian Laettner. Wrote SI's Curry Kirkpatrick at the time: "Choose any of the sociologically significant polarities enveloping the national championship that you wish, but when the Runnin' (positively Ragin') Rebels of UNLV got finished with poor Duke -- Miss vs. Match: The official number was 103-73, if you are keeping track on your keno ticket -- they had turned a morality play into astonishing theater of the absurd."

Few teams have been more polarizing and popular than the UNLV basketball squads of the early '90s, and this week HBO completed the rough cut for its upcoming Runnin' Rebels of UNLV, a documentary of the program under coach Jerry Tarkanian. The program will debut March 12 on HBO at 9:30 ET/PT. It will be shown in HD.

Last week, HBO Sports co-producers George Roy and Steve Stern recorded the voiceover for the hour-long program (the documentary will be narrated by actor Liev Schreiber) and are now putting the finishing touches on the program. "The signature elements of it are somewhat obvious -- the 1990 and 1991 teams were the teams that everyone connect to UNLV," said Roy. "But this is also about Jerry's era. He got there in 1973 and almost right away changed the face of basketball at UNLV and brought a lot of attention to the school, positively and negatively.

Naturally, the documentary will feature plenty of Tarkanian, whom Roy described today as a "fiery pepperpot." The former coach splits his time between Fresno, Las Vegas and San Diego. "He is still adamant about his love for those teams and his despising of the NCAA," Roy said.

Among the other notable interviews in the piece: CBS broadcaster Greg Anthony (who grew up in Las Vegas), and fellow former Rebels Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel (who grew up in Vegas) also provides some perspective. Roy said HBO attempted to get NCAA vice president David Berst, the original investigator in the case against Tarkanian and UNLV, but he and many others in the NCAA declined to speak. To offer the other side of UNLV's story, HBO did speak with Doug Dunlap, who was a member of NCAA"s enforcement staff who worked on the case.

As for the famed Richie (The Fixer) Perry, who appeared famously in a hot tub with three UNLV players and pleaded guilty in the mid-1980s to conspiring to commit sports bribery as part of a gambling scandal at Boston College, HBO was able to track him down in Florida, but that was as far as it went: "We were trying to connect him through an attorney he had an association with, but it kind of hit a brick wall and we were told he had no interest," Roy said.

Roy said the film took seven months to produce and given the buzz for the UNLV era in the sports blogosphere, it has the potential to be a big hit for HBO.

"Those 1990 and 1991 teams took on the aura of a professional team," said Roy. "They sort of had an outlaw, streetball ethos and for a time the UNLV hats were just as popular in Jersey City or the suburbs of Chicago as they were in Las Vegas. Their style of play and rebellious attitude toward both competitors and the establishment made them transcend basketball in a lot of ways. It was a fun one for us to do."

Open Mike Scores

ESPN's Mike Tirico examined a fascinating topic last week as part of his Open Mike podcast, an original bi-weekly podcast which is produced with no predetermined length. The subject was how pro teams and colleges search for a new head coach and the podcast featured a head coach (Lions coach Jim Schwartz), an agent (Matt Baldwin), an athletic director (Rick Greenspan of Rice University) and an executive from a search firm executive (Glenn Sugiyama, an executive VP and Global Sector Leader of Sports for DHR) discussing the search process from their experience. It's a terrific listen.

"We knew we wanted a few completely different perspectives on the topic," said ESPN Radio talent producer Shaun Wyman, who books guests for the podcast and works with Tirico and producer Rob Kelly to come up with story ideas and guests. "We looked for a coach who had been through the process recently and Jim worked out great. We wanted an AD or GM that admittedly has made some mistakes but also some great hires, and Rick was suggested through a mutual contact. Mike wanted to hear from an agent that represented coaches and executives and suggested that firm, and with Googling and a blind call, I found Glenn. It took about 10 days from when we started the guest ideas until the finished product."

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