College and University

Former UNLV Athletic Trainer Remembers NCAA Run

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College and University

Former UNLV Athletic Trainer Remembers NCAA Run

Article reposted from Times Union
Author: Jason Franchuk

Jerry Koloskie doesn’t tell a lot of old stories around the University at Albany. Some may not even know what the Great Danes’ deputy athletic director was once a part of.

The former UNLV staffer, however, certainly enjoys thinking about those Runnin’ Rebels days this time of year.

Trinkets from a transcendent era are in his office, in a safe and of course stowed just as tightly in his heart. Among all the hectic-but-priceless days he had at UNLV, the three Final Four appearances as the team’s athletic trainer from 1982 to 1997 offer some of the greatest stories.

Among them: his second son (1987), oxygen masks (1990) and football legend Walter Payton (1991).

“I’ve got a lot of great memories,” Koloskie said. “And this time of year, it’s really, really cool. It’s almost surreal. You kind of blow through it at the time because you’re working. But it was phenomenal.”

Koloskie brushed with greatness far before he graduated from West Virginia and Iowa State (graduate school), married an Iowan and eventually ended up at UNLV because of a friend’s job offer.

He grew up in the West Virginia coal-mining town of Monongah. A kid a few years older would go onto sports greatness, too: Nick Saban.

Koloskie was part of an often-polarizing era run by Jerry Tarkanian, who trusted Koloskie about how to handle injuries — and over time, much more. Koloskie’s reward was an unusual journey.

In 1987, Koloskie and his wife agreed to induce labor so Koloskie could attend the Final Four with the Rebels. James was born on a Tuesday, and Dad left for the airport at 2 a.m. for a flight to New Orleans. UNLV wound up losing to eventual national champion Indiana, which ousted Syracuse in the finals.

Later, at the 1992 Final Four, the drama involved the thin air of the host city, Denver. Koloskie notes UNLV was the only team not to have oxygen tanks and masks courtside.

Tarkanian forwarded a slew of interview requests about the issue to Koloskie, who counseled the coach that the Rebels shouldn’t be afforded a chance to “use that as a crutch.”

UNLV won the championship against Duke by a 30-point margin (103-73) that still stands as the biggest final-game blowout. The year also included Koloskie and his staff managing a broken jaw suffered by star point guard Greg Anthony early in the season.

The next year, NFL star Walter Payton grew attached to the charismatic, blustery Rebels. He even delivered the pregame speech before the 1990 title game.

But in 1991, Payton found himself gutted by the team not repeating — losing a rematch to Duke by 20 points in the semifinals.

“He just couldn’t believe it,” Koloskie said. “I think Walter needed as much comforting as any of the players.”

Koloskie moved to an administrative role at UNLV in 1997. At one point, in 2009, he was briefly in charge of the department. He oversaw the 20th anniversary of the championship team, telling a large crowd at a Las Vegas gala about his pride in a championship ring and snippet of the net.

“No one can ever take those things away from me,” he said then, and would repeat now.

At UAlbany, Koloskie oversees the daily operations of men’s basketball (along with women’s hoops and football). Head coach Will Brown says he’s not sure he can share some of the UNLV stories Koloskie has told him.

“A lot of it’s just more intrigue from my end,” Brown said. “How they went about business and me asking Jerry about his experiences working with those guys.”

Koloskie witnessed Rebels coaches from Tarkanian to the considerably tame (by Tark’s standard) Lon Kruger and Rollie Massimino, who also had current Villanova head coach Jay Wright on his staff.

“Often to learn, sometimes just to laugh,” Brown says of the tales.

UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson, who befriended Koloskie about a decade ago during a reference call for someone else, marvels at the names Koloskie knows well.

Larry Johnson, who became “Grandmama.” Stacey Augmon, the “Plastic Man.” And many more Rebels that aren’t as famous so far off The Strip.

“But it’s more than that,” said Benson, who hired Koloskie in January of 2015 — a year after he left UNLV. “Because he keeps in touch with everybody from those days, too.”