My co-host on Ballin Live and long-time Vegas resident Brett Grant gives us all an inside look at Tark and his meaning to Las Vegas residents.
After a long battle in recent years, with various health ailments, Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian (picture courtesy Review Journal), who built a basketball dynasty at UNLV died Wednesday morning at the age of 84.
His son, Danny Tarkanian, announced his father’s death on Twitter.
Coach Tark, my father, the greatest man I have ever known, passed today, to take his place in heaven. I will miss him every day of my life.@dannytarkanian
I’ve been in Vegas since the end of 1996 and like in the movie “Hoosiers”, where the saying goes, “I’ve seen the old timers, they sit around and talk about the glory days”….well, for UNLV basketball fans, that’s the days of Tark coaching the Runnin’ Rebels.
Today, February 11, 2015, as noted above, at the age of 84, legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away. His passing, along with the passing of Dean Smith, just a few days ago really brings into the light the difference of the game of college basketball today vs. the “glory” days.
From the days of games at the old Convention Center in Las Vegas to the building of the “Shark Tank” aka the Thomas & Mack Center and those great teams, Jerry Tarkanian put UNLV basketball on the map. Nobody thought the boys from the desert could play a lick. After four, Final 4 teams, 1 National Championship & 700+ wins, Tark made believers out of all of critics. He recruited great players like Sidney Green, Reggie Theus, Freddy Banks, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony….my favorite, Anderson Hunt – I loved to watch him shoot…and he could shoot it from anywhere. Those Rebels teams OWNED LAS VEGAS and the city loved those players and teams.
I once played in a media game with Anderson Hunt, he must have made about 15 three point shots in that game….after, he said to me, “Man, if I had the 3 point shot back in my day, I would have averaged 40 points a game”….and he was correct.
The Rebels became known to me in the mid-1980’s, when I was a teenager and saw my first game on TV from UNLV, when Mizzou played them. It was such a great atmosphere – I thought WOW! I was a fan of Tark from that day.
The 1990 team, with all due respect to the current Kentucky team, 1976 Indiana team, the great UCLA teams, the 1982 North Carolina team, was as dominant as any team in College Basketball history. Tark’s teams played so very hard, played incredible defense and on offense, he let them loose. His offensive philosophy was pretty simple – if you guys bust your butts for me on defense, I’ll let you have fun on offense and those teams did….not seen today in college basketball.
Tark took kids with checkered pasts, gave them 2nd chances, he didn’t care about his reputation or anything else, he only cared about helping the kids he coached. His players LOVED and ADORED him, they still do.
Over the years, as UNLV changed coaches ad nauseum, Tark was at every press conference, offering to help the program, to support the new coach and UNLV. He was so kind to all of us, always had the time to talk with us about the program, his legacy and his current role. He was so proud the day they named the court in his honor. Even though he was in failing health for the last few years, he was still at the T&M, still had that smile and would say hello. He seemed to never be in a bad mood. He was ALWAYS very nice to me.
To all that have grown up in Vegas or have lived here during that era, there is one true First Family of Las Vegas and that is the Tarkanian family. Thoughts and prayers for his wife, Lois and their entire family. College basketball lost a great coach, but Las Vegas lost a treasure. Tark was a great man.