LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — One by one the Runnin’ Rebels shake the hand of the man who shaped UNLV’s basketball program into what it is today. On Thursday, first-year head coach Kevin Kruger opened the doors to practice for a fundraiser in honor of Robert Smith.
“He’s a legend, a friend, just someone that we can really be happy to have in our lives,” Kruger said.
In 1977 Smith led the Runnin’ Rebels to the school’s first NCAA Final Four appearance. He went on to play in the NBA before his journey brought him back to Las Vegas to serve as UNLV’s basketball sportscaster.
However, Smith was silenced after suffering a severe stroke in October 2019.
His family says it’s been a long and difficult recovery for the Southern Nevada Hall of Famer, and the medical expenses are piling up, all while his wife, Gloria, battles breast cancer herself.
“Just for him to lay the foundation for us to be here, you know, as Rebels. And for us to be able to give back to him, you know, for a good cause is great," said UNLV point guard Marvin Coleman.
Coleman is a Las Vegas native and he says he grew up watching Robert Smith. His words are a sentiment shared by the entire team.
As the Runnin’ Rebels prepare for a new season, they’ll look forward to one fan cheering them on.
UNLV’s first game is on Nov. 10 here at Thomas & Mack Center.
The Smith family has set up a GoFundMe page in honor of Robert.