RUNNIN’ REBELS OF UNLV, THE STORY OF
A COLLEGE BASKETBALL DYNASTY AND ITS CONTROVERSIAL COACH,
JERRY TARKANIAN, DEBUTING ON THE EVE OF MARCH MADNESS
NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2010 — HBO Sports has begun production on RUNNIN’ REBELS OF UNLV, a documentary about the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels men’s basketball team and their controversial coach, Jerry Tarkanian, it was announced today by Ross Greenburg, president, HBO Sports. Debuting in 2011 on the eve of college basketball’s March Madness, the exclusive HBO presentation revisits the period from 1973 to 1992, when the Runnin’ Rebels embodied the brash, swaggering spirit of Las Vegas and the notion that winning and winning big was all that mattered.
“The Runnin’ Rebels’ impact on college basketball is indisputable,” said Greenburg. “Their accomplishments on the court made them royalty in Las Vegas, and their glamorous approach made them media stars nationally, but their coach’s enduring battle with the NCAA eventually triggered the end of the dynasty. We are going to chronicle their story, providing an in-depth portrait of the main characters who lit up the desert.”
RUNNIN’ REBELS OF UNLV examines the larger-than-life personalities of future NBA stars such as Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, as well as the eccentricities of their head coach, who was a lightning rod for controversy. Jerry Tarkanian put UNLV – once dismissed as “Tumbleweed Tech” – on the map in his first full season as head coach, leading the team to a 20-6 record in 1973. Implementing an up-tempo offense and preaching defensive intensity, he guided the Rebels to the Final Four four times and won the 1990 NCAA Championship with a 30-point drubbing of the Duke Blue Devils.
Billed as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time, the 1990-1991 Rebels became the first team in 12 seasons to go undefeated during the regular season before losing in the Final Four to archrival Duke in a heartbreaking 79-77 defeat. UNLV has not been back to the Final Four since. Overall, UNLV’s basketball program compiled a jaw-dropping 509-105 record under Tarkanian.
The NCAA consistently plagued the Rebels throughout Tarkanian’s time as head coach, placing UNLV on two-year probation for alleged recruiting violations and attempting to suspend Tarkanian in 1977. Although the coach fought the suspension and was allowed to continue coaching, problems with the NCAA came to a head in 1987 when one of Tarkanian’s prized recruits was caught buying cocaine from an undercover police officer. The Rebels were subsequently prohibited from postseason competition in 1992, when the team finished with a 26-2 record, playing for pride instead of the playoffs.
Jerry Tarkanian departed as head coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on June 7, 1992. He went on to coach the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, but was fired in a dispute with the team’s owner after just 20 games. While coaching for his alma mater Fresno State in 1998, Tarkanian was vindicated by an out-of-court $2.5 million settlement with the NCAA, which he claimed had tried to drive him from college basketball.
HBO Sports’ documentary group has earned 30 Sports Emmy® Awards and eight Peabody Awards over the years. HBO’s rich history of college basketball films includes “Battle for Tobacco Road: Duke vs. Carolina” (2009), “The UCLA Dynasty” (2007), “Perfect Upset: The 1985 Villanova vs. Georgetown NCAA Championship” (2005) and “City Dump: The Story of the 1951 CCNY Basketball Scandal” (1998).
The executive producers of RUNNIN’ REBELS OF UNLV are Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein; senior producer, Joe Lavine; produced by George Roy and Steve Stern.