UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian brought in two junior college transfers for the 1989-90 season that resulted in a national championship.
One of those players was Larry Johnson, the former McDonald's All-American who helped lead the Rebels to the title. The other transfer was Dave Rice, a reserve on that championship team who went on to become head coach of the program after being named to the position this spring.
Johnson wanted to be a candidate for the job despite having no coaching experience, and he told Gaming Today that he's unhappy about not being seriously considered.
When [Lon] Kruger left for the University of Oklahoma and Johnson reacted by saying he would love to coach the Rebels, that bitterness returned when the administration never contacted him.
"People all over town, wherever I went, asked me if I wanted to coach," Johnson said. "They wanted me and Stacey [Augmon], knowing he had been an assistant coach. They had to hire him (as an assistant), knowing they would never consider me."
Johnson had previously expressed interest in the UNLV job to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, indicating that his lack of coaching experience wouldn't be a problem because of his talent in other areas.
"We can put butts in the seats and we definitely can recruit. There's no growing pains I would have to go through, and if I have the right cast around me, I believe I can do it. And I really believe the city would be behind me."
Johnson told the paper he had discussed his desire to pursue the job with Tarkanian and Augmon. Tarkanian supported the candidancy of another former player, Reggie Theus. Rice ultimately got the job, hired Augmon as an assistant, and has expressed how much he wants to bring back many of the Runnin' Rebel traditions to the program.
That should have ended the political chatter surrounding the position. Tarkanian made an appearance at Rice's press conference and gave out compliments about his former player. Theus quietly went about his business.
Johnson, one of UNLV's most famous alums, decided to speak out. He had told the Review-Journal before Rice was hired that he was planning to call athletic director Jim Livengood, but apparently the two never got in touch, leaving the man with the gap-toothed smile bitter at the administration.
"I don’t like those Arizona people in the administration and they don't like me," Johnson told Gaming Today, referring to Livengood's previous school. "It’s not UNLV Runnin’ Rebels no more, it’s UNLV Wildcats right now."