Published Saturday, July 19, 2008 | 1:44 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008 | 10:15 a.m.
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Stacey Augmon has been happy to be back on the Thomas & Mack Center court this week. He’s taken extra looks around his former home and enjoys seeing framed photographs of himself from another era on the walls.
That hasn’t been the case in previous returns, but one of the stars from UNLV’s glory days said that has changed since Lon Kruger has been coaching the Rebels.
Augmon is starting his second season as a player development coach for the Denver Nuggets, so he’s been helping tutor rookies and other young Nuggets at the NBA Summer League. He'll be back on the Mack court today at 3:30 p.m., when the Nuggets play the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 15-year NBA veteran has concentrated on dispensing his defensive wisdom to Dahntay Jones and Keith Langford on recent nights at the Mack.
In 1991, Augmon became the first three-time winner of the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ defensive player of the year honors.
Outside a locker room late Friday night, almost whispering, Augmon smiled and said it’s wonderful to be back at the Mack on good terms with the basketball program and university.
“Kruger is at the head of the pack,” he said. “He’s welcomed us and opened his arms. It’s a great feeling. All the guys I’ve been talking with, who came out with me, have been welcomed back to the university.
“It’s a good feeling. Time heals all wounds.”
It took a while, he said, but it’s never too late.
Augmon confirmed that the way former coach Jerry Tarkanian was treated by university officials in the late 1980s and early 1990s, who ultimately ousted him, kept him, Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and many others away from UNLV.
“That does stand out,”Augmon said. “But it was numerous reasons, not just one. But, like I said, that’s in the past. We have to move on at this point. Yeah, it took a while. But it’s never too late.”
Augmon declined to reveal all the reasons why the great Rebels of the past stayed away from UNLV.
He didn’t receive a specific call from Kruger welcoming him and the rest of his former teammates back into the fold, nor did Augmon recall the exact timeline of how it happened.
It just happened.
“I don’t remember exactly who wanted to come back first,” he said. “It was a collaboration of all of us. We keep in very good contact. We said it’s about time for us to do this.”
Larry Johnson finished his degree requirements last fall and walked through graduation ceremonies in December inside the Mack, so he could have ignited the reunion.
Augmon said it doesn’t mean that the old crew will be so much more visible at games.
“Doesn’t mean that at all,” he said. “It just means that now, out publicly, UNLV and the basketball team has our blessing and support. If they need us to come here for anything, we have an open mind about coming back.”
And, say, meeting with players?
“Oh, yeah,” Augmon said. “That’s the easy part. No problem there.”
What’s the hard part?
“I don’t think there is a hard part.”
He said he was most eager to continue a relationship with the team and school as soon as he left, when UNLV lost that national semifinal to Duke in 1991 in the Rebels’ quest for consecutive championships.
“I was eager to come back and I wanted to come back,” he said. “I always talked about my alma mater, but the way things were handled … I just didn’t come back.
“Right now, it’s a good feeling to be back. Like I said, I have to move on.”
Augmon turns 40 on Aug. 1. He has five children and his main residence is his hometown of Pasadena, Calif.
Coaching defense has been a breeze for him. He said Kruger has his phone number if he ever needs some defensive input.
“That’s right, call me up,” said Augmon, laughing. “The defensive wiz.”