Ron Kantowski:

Gondo’s pal tries to fill void on Rebels air

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Sam Morris

UNLV basketball radio announcers Jon Sadler, left, and Robert Smith call the Rebels preseason game against Washburn on Tuesday.

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Glen Gondrezick, days after receiving a transplanted heart. Launch slideshow »

Saying Goodbye to Gondo

With a mixture of laughter and tears, the UNLV family remembers one of its most loyal Rebels, Glen Gondrezick.

The final chapter of Glen Gondrezick’s career as a UNLV Rebel was written Tuesday night, 104 feet beneath where his jersey hangs from the rafters at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Actually, it was spoken into a microphone by Jon Sandler, his longtime broadcast partner, and Robert Smith, his former teammate on The Hardway Eight, the first UNLV Final Four team, in 1977, the one that, if you saw it play, you would argue could beat the 1990 national championship team feted during halftime of the annual exhibition game against Washburn, and maybe even the Rebel juggernaut that somehow lost to Duke in the national semifinals the year after that.

It was the first season in 18 that did not begin with Gondo providing expert analysis about what the Rebels were doing right, or, in the case of the Rollie Massimino and Charlie Spoonhour years, wrong.

Glen Gondrezick died in April from complications of a heart transplant, and although it seemed preposterous that UNLV could begin a basketball season without him, this is what somehow occurred.

Maybe Gondo’s absence explains why the Rebels looked so off-kilter against a tiny Division II team from Kansas made up of Munchkins who nevertheless were successful in dictating pace and tempo on both ends of the floor.

Nowhere was it written that Smith be the one to take Gondo’s place, but it sure seemed appropriate. During his long convalescence, Gondrezick spoke repeatedly about how Smith was one of the few old Rebels who would drop by his home to keep him company. You could tell that touched Gondo even more than when Smith, the deft point guard, would pass him the ball under the North Carolina basket.

You could tell by the tears he cried at his pal’s eulogy that it meant a lot to Smith, too, who said then that Gondo “will always be my brother.”

On Tuesday night, Smith said Gondo would have been his worst critic, too.

“Oh, he would have told me straight out that I sucked,” Smith said, laughing. “But that was Glen. Then he would always come back and give you a compliment.”

That much — but probably only that much, because we’re talking about Gondo here — was true. I remember Gondrezick saying that if he could take his jersey down from those rafters and put Smith’s up there instead, he would. You should start a campaign to have his jersey be the next one they retire, Gondo would tell me.

“I’ll always miss him,” Smith said Tuesday. “But I know Glen. He would have said ‘Aw, no, you were terrible. Get him out of here.’ ”

Sandler said when the Rebels fell behind the Munchkins by seven points midway through the second half, Gondo would have told his listeners not to worry, that it was only an exhibition.

“He wouldn’t have said anything on the air,” Sandler said. “But off the air he would have thrown his headset down, looked at me and said something that you can’t say on the air.

“I thought about it walking into the building how it was going to be different ... strange ... knowing he wasn’t going to be here, to hear Gondo say the things he always said every game. Unfortunately, we knew this day was coming.

“It’s going to take us awhile to figure out how this all works.”

If this is the final chapter in Glen Gondrezick’s Rebel Odyssey, then his old pal and roommate, the one Gondo and Reggie Theus bound with athletic tape and left in the elevator in Salt Lake City that one time, gets the final word.

As it was in 1976-77, the floor is all yours, Robert Smith.

“I wish he was still here.”

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  1. great stuff

  2. Gondo was a GREAT guy!!! That 1977 team was robbed against UNC & should've been National Champs. Dean Smith & ACC bias! Small town back then, wish it was like that again! Interesting match-up '77 Rebs vs '90 Rebs. No 3 point shot in '77, Hardway8 was lights out from3. Defense great on both sides. Difference would've been LJ for '90 team to win, but '77 team was 8 deep and did it all! Betcha Tark wouldn't commit, but I'd love to know his opinion!