The passing of Armen Gilliam had many recalling his days as a dominant force at UNLV and someone who everyone loved as a player and a person. He lead the Rebels to the Final Four in 1987.
Gilliam wasn't highly recruited, but made up for it with his work ethic. As former coach Jerry Tarkanian wrote in the Las Vegas Sun, "[Gilliam] was a nonrecruited player out of high school and better known as a football player and wrestler."
He was also a college coach. And although Gilliam's record wasn't very good at Division III Penn State Altoona, he managed to leave an impression by giving unknown players opportunities to shine.
According to the Altoona Mirror, Tyler Franklin was one former Penn State Altoona player who never forgot it.
"Armen was the only guy who took a chance on me coming out of high school,'' Franklin said. "After averaging 14 points per game and helping take [Altoona Area High School] to the [PIAA] western finals, I didn't have even one offer to go to school to play ball. He told me I would play right away. I got [Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference] rookie of the year that year and became the school's all-time leading scorer years later. I give him a lot of credit for that.''
Gilliam's contract was not renewed following the 2004-05 season, and the school hired Alan Seretti to succeed him. Gilliam finished with an 18-60 record.
"The thing players didn't like was he was upfront and direct as opposed to using constructive criticism about players' mistakes and inabilities,'' Franklin said. "The year before I got there we went 2-25, but the two years I was there we improved each year. For what he had to work with when I was there, I thought he did pretty well.''