As if UNLV needed any extra motivation for Saturday afternoon’s Mountain West opener at No. 22 San Diego State, Aztecs’ coach Steve Fisher may have provided it.
“I will say this, and this will sound egotistical, I think we’re the best program on the West Coast,” Fisher said at a press conference on Dec. 6. “So I don’t know what that means for major, mid-major, high-major, low-major or no-major, but I think we’re the best program on the West Coast. If you walk into our building, we have an atmosphere that a lot of Pac-12 schools would cry to have, with the crowds that we’ve got and the success that we’ve had.”
Fisher was upset at the time that his 8-2 squad, fresh off a memorable 34-3 campaign, had been snubbed in the weekly rankings.
You’d think those quotes would be prime bulletin board material for Dave Rice’s No. 12 ranked Runnin’ Rebels this week, right? But Rice and several of his players said they were unaware of Fisher’s comments before being asked about them by a reporter after a practice this week.
“I actually hadn’t seen it,” Rice said, who went out of his way not to start a war or words. “Certainly we have great respect for Coach Fisher and the program that he has built. They’ve been great for a long time. Having said that, we’re very confident with the job that we’ve done. I would expect that Coach Fisher would feel strongly about his team, just like I feel about our team.”
“It’s the first time I’m hearing that,” senior guard Oscar Bellfield said. “It is what it is. We play on Saturday. We’re going to look forward to it.”
Senior forward Chace Stanback said Fisher’s comments didn’t bother him.
“Not at all,” he said. “Coaches are entitled to their opinion. Ultimately we have to go in there and win a game. That’s the ultimate goal.”
UNLV (16-2) has lost five in a row to the Aztecs, so the Rebels really don’t have much room to complain about Fisher’s comments at this time. However, Rice was the top assistant last year on a BYU squad that shared the MWC crown with San Diego State but also swept the Aztecs in two meetings and was the No. 1 seed for the Mountain West tourney.
Maybe Fisher considers Provo to be too far east to be considered on the West Coast.