The UNLV Rebel basketball team is playing in the NCAA sweet sixteen for the first time in 16 years, and several notable Las Vegas golfers are along for the ride. In fact, golf might have played the biggest role in the resurrection of the UNLV Hoops program. The story goes that the deal to bring Head Coach Lon Kruger to UNLV a few years ago was sealed on the fairways and greens of Las Vegas' Anthem Country Club, when bigtime booster Cliff Findlay, UNLV Athletic Director Mike Hamrick and Kruger teed it up at the private club. And this season, the likes of PGA Tour player Chris Riley (a former UNLV Rebel golfer), Southern Highlands Golf Club owner Garry Goett, Head Pro Jay Beckman and General Manager Stan Spraul, and many other Vegas golfers, have been spotted at the Thomas and Mack watching the Rebels.
Rebel radio play-by-play announcer Jon Sandler is an avid golfer who represented Las Vegas in the annual Transatlantic Golf Challenge sponsored the the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. And Jeremy Anderson, another former UNLV golfer and PGA Tour player, attends most games.
World-renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon has been to a few games as has his protege, Shawn Callahan, a pro under Harmon at his golf school located at Rio Secco Golf Club. Callahan works with former Rebel golfer and recent PGA Tour champion Charley Hoffman, who has also been spotted at UNLV basketball home games.
Jeff Jensen, a longtime marketing executive at Las Vegas golf courses and who writes for GolfLasVegasNow.com in addition to a weekly golf column in the News, is now an executive with Imagine Marketing, the company behind UNLV's basketball marketing. Jensen was in Chicago for the Rebels victories over Georgia Tech and Wisconsin.
UNLV Golf coaches Dwaine Knight and Andy Bischel are also fans, and attend some of the Rebel home games.
Rebel home public address announcer Dick Calvert travels with the UNLV Golf team, is an avid player, and also works for Walters Golf. Plus, Joe Kelly, a longtime Las Vegas PGA pro now overseeing Golf Summerlin, is his son-in-law.
Channel 8 Sports Director Chris Maathuis is an avid golfer, and was a key organizer of the inaugural Legends and Friends UNLV basketball event played at DragonRidge Country Club before a Rebel home game early in the season.
And Greg Anthony, a former Rebel guard and an avid golfer, had his jersey retired earlier this year, immediately following the Legends and Friends golf event.
Anthony led the Rebels to the 1990 National Championship, and before this year, was on the last UNLV team to win a game in the NCAA tournament.