Nov. 9, 2011
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - UNLVRebels.com caught up with new Runnin' Rebel head coach Dave Rice days before his short-handed Runnin' Rebels face Grand Canyon on Opening Night at the Thomas & Mack Center this Friday.
UNLVRebels.com: What was it like to be back on the bench at the T&M last week, this time as head coach of the Runnin' Rebels?
Dave Rice: It was special for so many different reasons. There is so much tradition here and it certainly brought back a lot of great memories. I played here, my wife (Mindy) graduated from UNLV and our two sons were born in Las Vegas. So this is home to us and it means a lot to be back. But once the game tipped off, it was all about the game. It was all about our guys.
UNLVRebels.com: How did you feel about the team's performance against Washburn and then your closed scrimmage this weekend against Loyola Marymount?
DR: This is a process and it will be for a while. We definitely saw more glimpses on Saturday of what we are going to look like offensively and it was nice to have most of the guys playing. But what I really liked was the resolve of our guys. We have a lot of work to do and we have to get better - and we will - but this team has a chance to be really good.
UNLVRebels.com: You are only going to have seven scholarship players for Opening Night on Friday against Grand Canyon. (Starters Anthony Marshall and Chace Stanback are suspended and key reserve Carlos Lopez is out indefinitely with an injured ankle.) How much of a challenge will this be?
DR: It's definitely not the way you envision starting the season, especially when you are trying to implement a new offensive system against opponents. That said, Grand Canyon doesn't care about our problems and they'll be coming in here well-coached and wanting to knock us off. Good teams have to deal with adversity. Friday will not be easy and we will have little margin for error, but we are ready for the battle.
UNLVRebels.com: So much has been made in the preseason about the up-tempo offense you want to bring back to UNLV. How are the returning players adjusting to the new style?
DR: They are working hard and we are seeing more and more glimpses of what is to come offensively. It's going to take some time, but we'll get there. Again, it's a process. But we really like our guys and we'll keep getting better and better throughout the season.
UNLVRebels.com: You just completed your first off-season as head coach of the Runnin' Rebel program. How do you feel about the state of the program?
DR: As we have said all along, we are so grateful for what Coach Kruger did for this program in his time here - and I say that as a former player as well as the current head coach. We walked into a good opportunity to keep building upon that recent success as well as building upon the rich history of this program. Our job is to now take a very good program and make it great. We know going from good to great is not easy, but we are ready for the challenge. We are losing some good seniors and we need to replace them with talented newcomers. We feel really good about the players we are recruiting to fit our system. Our goal is to be great. It'll take some time and we may have some setbacks along the way, but that remains the goal.