Following a run to the Elite Eight in the 1989 NCAA Tournament, UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian was determined to go even further the following season. He added junior college transfer Larry Johnson to an already-stacked lineup that included hometown boy Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, and Anderson Hunt. Branded as thugs by the media, the Runnin’ Rebels just went out and played basketball, dominating opponents on a historic run toward the NCAA title.
UNLV began the season as the top-ranked team in the country but actually lost two of their first five games. But by the time the NCAA Tournament rolled around, the Runnin’ Rebels were 29-5 and were the top seed in the West Region. They rolled through their first two games but faced a surprising test in the Sweet 16, narrowly escaping 12th-seeded Ball State, 69-67. That set up an Elite Eight matchup with Loyola Marymount, who was the emotional favorite as they had tragically lost Hank Gathers just a few weeks earlier. UNLV prevailed, winning by 30 and scoring 131 points in a fast-paced contest.
After defeating Georgia Tech in the national semifinals, UNLV was set for a showdown with Coach K, Christian Laettner, and the Duke Blue Devils. Expected to be a national title game for the ages, it wasn’t that at all. UNLV became the first (and still the only) team in history to hit the century mark in the championship game, trouncing Duke by 30, 103-73. Anderson Hunt was named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player.
UNLV had defied the critics who said their style of basketball couldn’t win a national title and continued their dominance the following year, winning their first 34 games of the 1990-1991 season before being upset by Duke in the Final Four, ending their hopes of the first undefeated season since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers pulled it off in 1976. But the Runnin’ Rebels had left their mark in college basketball history and numerous players went on to success in the NBA.
In his two years at UNLV, Larry Johnson averaged 21.6 points per game and was clearly the best player on the team, winning the coveted Naismith Player of the Year award, as well as the John Wooden award, in 1991. He was selected with the first overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets and made an immediate impact, winning Rookie of the Year while averaging 19.2 points and 11 rebounds per game. He was an All-Star selection two of the next three seasons and was widely popular due to his hilarious “Grandmama” ads for Converse.
In 1993, Johnson signed what was at the time the richest contract in NBA history for seven years and $84 million. He was a member of the second Dream Team in 1994, winning a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship. He was traded to the New York Knicks in 1996 and finished his career there, retiring in 2001 due to chronic back issues.
He took a job with the Knicks in 2012 as a player development representative and, due to his time with the Rebels, was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame and is a member of the UNLV Hall of Fame as well.
It took a season for Stacey Augmon to find his footing at UNLV, averaging just 9.1 points his freshman year, but once he did, the “Plastic Man” became a serious threat. In his final three years with the Rebels, Augmon averaged 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
He was drafted with the ninth overall pick of the 1991 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks, where he enjoyed the best years of his pro career. In five seasons in Atlanta, Augmon averaged 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds before being traded to the Detroit Pistons during the 1996-1997 season. He next spent five years with the Portland Trailblazers and finished his 15-year NBA career with stints with the Hornets and Magic. In 1001 career games, Stacey Augmon averaged 8.0 points.
Following his playing career, Augmon stayed in the game as a coach, even going back to UNLV in 2011 after spending some time with the Denver Nuggets. He was later hired as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and currently works in player development with the Sacramento Kings. In 2018-2019, Augmon was the head coach of the Jeonju KCC Egis in the Korean League.
Las Vegas native Greg Anthony actually began his college career at Portland but returned home to UNLV for his final three seasons and was an integral part of the NCAA Championship team in 1990, averaging 11.2 points and 7.4 assists. Anthony was taken with the 12th pick in the 1991 NBA draft by the New York Knicks and was a key role player, as he was for most of his career. He spent four seasons in the Big Apple before heading to the Grizzlies in the expansion draft in 1995, the year he had his best overall season with 14 points and 6.9 assists per game.
After two years in Vancouver, Anthony played five more years in the NBA with Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and Milwaukee. In 757 career games, Anthony averaged 7.3 points and four assists.
Greg Anthony has his No. 50 jersey retired by UNLV and has become a very successful commentator, first working NBA coverage for ESPN and ABC and later moving to CBS and Turner Sports to cover the college game.
Despite a stellar college career, Anderson Hunt was not drafted into the NBA but did find a little success in the CBA and overseas.
Former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away in February 2015 at the age of 84.