Even in Vegas, there's no neon in Anthony's shining light

Milton Kent

April 01, 1991|By Milton Kent

INDIANAPOLIS -- There is no longer walk in sports than the one that Nevada-Las Vegas point guard Greg Anthony had to take late Saturday night, with his arm around backcourt mate Anderson Hunt.

He walked into a crowded room full of reporters wanting to know why the seemingly invincible suddenly became vincible, why Clark Kent couldn't find a phone booth when he really needed TC one, why the zero that had followed UNLV's win total all season and for 45 games total now read "1".

Billy Tubbs took this walk in 1988, John Thompson took it in 1985 and Guy V. Lewis, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Phi Slamma Jamma did the same in 1983.

The number of people who accompany you is of little consequence, for it is the loneliest passage you can make.

But Anthony, to his credit, was willing to carry his defeated teammates along on his shoulders on the walk. He and Hunt had done just that on the court in UNLV's 79-77 loss to Duke.

"I wouldn't trade playing with Stacey [Augmon] and Larry [Johnson] and Anderson and the rest of the guys," Anthony said Saturday night. "I'd rather lose with this team than play with any other team and win."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke later of the class and graciousness of the entire Runnin' Rebels squad, but he could have narrowed it to Anthony and still have been accurate.

Johnson and Augmon have been the clear symbols of the near-dynasty in the desert, but Anthony has been the driving force.

The proof came when he fouled out with 3:51 left on a questionable charging call. Without Anthony, the Rebels folded their tents and headed home, swamped under an 8-3 run.

And in the last 12 seconds, when a cool head was needed to get UNLV a good shot and a fighting chance, there was no Anthony and there was no win.

It was a shame, for in a situation that has called out for class and grace, Greg Anthony has been that. If anyone deserved to stand above all, it is Greg Anthony.

However one might feel about the 14-year battle between the NCAA and UNLV and its coach, Jerry Tarkanian, there is no question that Anthony, more than any other Rebel, became a victim of this Ahab-Moby Dick struggle.

Anthony, who should be a symbol of what college athletics can be, is a bright and resourceful and politically active young man.

He is the vice chairman of the Young Republicans of Nevada and has a real estate license and, with friends, established a lucrative printed T-shirt company.

When the business began to flourish, the word came down from the NCAA's Kansas headquarters that Anthony could not continue to run the T-shirt firm and hold his scholarship, since that violated the rule that athletes cannot work during their season.

Though the rule was instituted to keep boosters from passing cash to recruits under the table through the guise of "employment" and didn't really apply to Anthony's situation, the Las Vegas native did the next best thing and renounced his scholarship, opting to pay his own way through UNLV.

But that was not enough for the blood-thirsty NCAA, which later ordered Anthony to give up his share of the company or be ineligible. And since he had a chance to be a part of history, Anthony complied and gave up the business.

After Saturday's loss, Anthony, to his credit, would not curse his persecutors, though NCAA enforcement director David Berst is reported by ESPN to have offered to pick up a round of drinks for friends after the UNLV loss.

"The NCAA is a fine organization," said Anthony. "There are some people in the NCAA who have problems with us. But they have as much respect for our university as any others."

Those are the words of a very trusting soul, for the evidence, at least in his case, speaks to the contrary.

It seems clear that if Anthony went to Duke or North Carolina or anywhere else but UNLV, the NCAA couldn't get cameras to campus fast enough to hail him as an example of the student-athlete it speaks so often of.

Yes, Greg Anthony deserved to stand for one last time as a champion to prove that the truly good guys can triumph occasionally.

Thankfully, now that he has stepped over the clutching tentacles of the NCAA, Greg Anthony will walk on a higher plain.

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