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Grgurich Passes Test of Time : College basketball: Former UNLV assistant hired as coach despite previous investigations.

October 22, 1994|ELLIOTT ALMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a longtime assistant to Nevada Las Vegas' Jerry Tarkanian, Tim Grgurich was no stranger to NCAA investigations.

But despite being named in a number of alleged infractions, Grgurich knew last year he could return to college basketball without facing sanctions.

Grgurich, who agreed Friday to a three-year contract worth about $300,000 a year to replace Rollie Massimino as UNLV coach, received a letter from the NCAA dated March 12, 1993, saying, in essence, he had served his penance.

The letter, from David Berst, NCAA assistant executive director for enforcement, said, in part: " . . . you are not facing any NCAA penalty or disciplinary action that would follow you."

As part of the resolution, Grgurich agreed to be cited for two minor violations.

He admitted to once allowing the high school coach of former Rebel Travis Bice to buy two first-round NCAA tournament tickets from UNLV's allotment, and to helping Rebel players cash their paychecks, then driving them around Las Vegas to pay their rent and utility bills from that money.

Originally, Grgurich was named in seven areas of an infractions case in which the NCAA charged Las Vegas' basketball program with rules violation in nearly 40 areas, many stemming from the 1986 recruitment of former New York high school star Lloyd Daniels.

The allegations linked to Grgurich included holding cash in envelopes for players, providing tickets for recruits' high school coaches, making illegal visits to recruits' homes and providing living arrangements for a player.

He has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney, Roy E. Smith of Las Vegas, said last year NCAA officials dismissed the serious allegations because of a lack of evidence.

But the allegations were not processed because Smith and other attorneys evoked the Nevada due process statute to stall the NCAA's official inquiry against the individuals. After that, the NCAA processed its case only against the university while the constitutionality of the due process statute was debated in court.

Berst said this week there was no reason to continue the process on Grgurich and some of the others named in the inquiry because so much time has elapsed.

"The case has expired now and they haven't been involved in the athletics program since then," Berst said.

Grgurich, who was a Seattle SuperSonic assistant, has been out of college basketball for two years, which probably would have been the extent of any penalty imposed.

UNLV interim President Kenny Guinn confirmed late Friday afternoon that an "agreement in principle" had been reached and that Grgurich was expected to sign the contract by this morning.

"To bring back someone from the past took a lot of courage on his (Guinn's) part," Grgurich told the Associated Press. "I'm willing to back him up as much as possible."

In a separate matter, Grgurich also was sanctioned for a controversial preseason practice in October 1991 that was secretly videotaped by a UNLV official.

The alleged practice was held two weeks before the season officially began during a conditioning class taught by Grgurich. Thirteen of the 28 students were basketball players.

University officials reported the incident to the NCAA. Grgurich was required to attend a training session covering NCAA rules and was banned from teaching future conditioning classes, a source familiar with the case said.

Grgurich sued UNLV over the videotaping incident, and reached a $100,000 settlement. He left the school in July 1992, when Tarkanian resigned.

Grgurich's hiring came a week after Rollie Massimino agreed to an almost $1.9-million buyout, and over the protest of the school's athletic director, who said the move to hire Grgurich would give the perception that the Tarkanian era was back.

Athletic Director Jim Weaver resigned during the negotiations with Grgurich, but will stay on until the end of the school year.

Weaver said he was perceived as a link to past turmoil at UNLV and would step aside for the good of the university.

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