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CRASS AND CLASS
Curry Kirkpatrick
November 20, 1989
Behind the glitz of UNLV basketball is a real school in a real city
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November 20, 1989

Crass And Class

Behind the glitz of UNLV basketball is a real school in a real city

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These are Tark's schmoozing pals, his nightly cocktails-and-dinner partners in the spangled gourmet rooms of Vegas. Tarkanian, a born-again health nut, rarely tipples—he has an occasional glass of wine—but he loves the side of coaching that most of his peers abhor: glad-handing, hanging out with fans and alumni, letting the basketball celebrity-sniffers get close enough for a really significant whiff. As he once said, "None of the boosters' kids go to UNLV. They go to USC or Stanford. [His own son, Danny, was a Runnin' Rebel point guard in the early 1980s and is now a lawyer in Las Vegas.] But they all love us."

And not just the swells, either. Tark is a hero to Vegas's backbone—the hotel bellhops and chambermaids, the construction workers, the blackjack dealers and parking valets who plan work shifts around Rebel games and plan vacations so that they can accompany UNLV on its postseason tournament odysseys. "You think Tark is some dummy?" says a local businessman. "He's everywhere in town. He built this support from ground zero. That's why whenever he gets in trouble with the NCAA, the whole community comes together behind him. Does the NCAA actually think they'd ever have a shot in a court case in Vegas? The judge who ruled against Tark would be trying his next case at the bottom of Lake Mead." Well, at least there would be an opening on Gucci Row.

"My wife, Bonnie, married me just to get the great seat in Gucci Row," says Glusman, the high-rolling entrepreneur who owns a stable of boxers in partnership with Bob Arum, Las Vegas mayor Ron Lurie and none other than Tarkanian. In fact, UNLV basketball is the Gucci Row inhabitants' social scene, its windup toy, the major league franchise Las Vegas will never be allowed to possess because of its gaming industry.

One year Susan Molasky passed up a French Riviera vacation to accompany UNLV on a long road trip to the freezing Midwest, during which she sat huddled inside the Robertson Memorial Field House at Bradley in Peoria, Ill. She was a forlorn, hand-clapping audience of one—as the Rebs practiced.

Does such loyalty pay off with joy in the end? Of course it does. At Auburn one season, UNLV got a special dispensation to seat its fans down front—provided they minded their manners. That meant no Molaskian cussing. After the Rebels beat the Tigers in a blowout, Tarkanian was quietly talking with the presidents of both universities on the court when Molasky shrieked onto the scene, stopping just short of a neck tackle. "Oh, Jerry," she cried out as the astonished prezes looked on in horror. "I'm so proud of myself. I didn't say——once!" And nobody asked her what hotel she lived in back in Vegas, either.

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