Since the University of Nevada, Reno, was established in 1874, the Wolf Pack has been embedded in Reno’s DNA, so it’s no surprise that Nevada athletics has had a major impact on the city’s sports community.
Arguably one of the most popular Nevada sports is the Eric Musselman-led men’s basketball team. The program was introduced in 1913, winning a total of 19 conference championships and making eight NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2008, sensing an appetite for professional basketball in northern Nevada, another basketball organization was announced to be joining the Wolf Pack, the Reno Bighorns. The Bighorns are the Sacramento Kings’ affiliate and they play in the Pacific Division of the NBA G League.
Since the Bighorns’ debut, Nevada athletics has a deep-rooted history of collaborating with the professional team on and off the court.
The most recent and notable case was this past season where the Musselman father-and-son duo of Bill and Eric were highlighted for their respective tenures as head coaches for the Bighorns. As the current head coach of the Pack, Musselman started his sports journey in Reno with the Bighorns in 2010-11 prior to joining Nevada in 2015. The younger Musselman led the Bighorns to their best regular season record in franchise history, ending the season 34-16. He coached a slew of NBA players that year including Jeremy Lin, Danny Green and Hassan Whiteside. His father, Bill, was the team’s original head coach from 1978-79 when the Bighorns first came to Reno. The elder Musselman led them to a 28-20 record and an appearance in the Western Basketball Association’s only title game.
Because of the Musselman history in Reno, the Bighorns hosted a Legacy Night to honor both the coaches. To thank the duo for their work with Nevada athletics, Bighorns players paid homage to Bill’s first season by wearing original throwback 1978 jerseys.
“On behalf of the Musselman family, I am excited to announce our plans to celebrate the legacy of my father Bill Musselman,” Musselman said in a press release pertaining to the evening. “We invite Bighorns and Nevada fans to join us as we honor my father and his accomplishments and recognize his contributions to the original Bighorns team.”
During the game, the Musselman family was recognized on-court for their commitment to northern Nevada.
Later in the season, the Bighorns hosted a Wolf Pack-themed night and invited the entire Reno community to support the Pack before the Sweet 16. In a video posted by the Bighorns, you can see fans gather to show their love for the pack by cheering along to Nevada’s famous “Wolf! Pack!” chant.
The Bighorns have invested in talent from the campus as well, with many Nevada alumni having either worked or played for the Bighorns throughout their time in Reno. The College of Business has partnered with the team on many occasions for events and intern opportunities. The Bighorns have also made a concerted effort to employ a multitude of Nevada graduates for positions in sales, game operations, marketing and public relations.
According to the current front office, the 2017-18 season has been one of the most profitable seasons ever, with franchise highs in ticket sales, community appearances and media outreach.
Beyond business, the team has a rich history of former Nevada players suiting up to play in the G League. Nick Fazekas, a member of the Pack from 2003-2007, was the Bighorns’ first overall pick in the NBA D-League draft in 2010 and was picked up again in 2011. Fazekas is the all-time leader scorer and all-time leading rebounder for the Pack. Another famous Pack hooper, Mo Charlo, was acquired by the Bighorns in 2009, required in 2011, and then required again in 2013. Charlo earned to be a NBA D-League All-Star in 2014. Most recently, Gary Hill-Thomas, a Nevada alumnus and member of the 2004 Sweet 16 team, is on this season’s Bighorns coaching staff.
Current Bighorns guard Cody Demps has been linked to the campus through Nevada Football. Demps’ brother Wyatt was one of the top receivers for Nevada Football this past season.
Demps was highly complementary of the Pack’s impact on the Bighorns and the community. “I really like the camaraderie — you can see Nevada gear everywhere,” Demps said. “It’s a great way to bring everyone together — it’s awesome that they give the city that much joy.”
The Bighorns regular season ended last week and the team locked up the second seed in the NBA G League playoffs. The Bighorns start their playoff run this Tuesday, April 3 at 6 p.m. and take on the South Bay Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals at the Reno Events Center. Students get a complimentary ticket with their student ID, along with a free hot dog.