Hall of Famer and former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian died Wednesday after suffering breathing troubles and an infection, according to ESPN and a tweet from Tarkanian’s son. He was 84.
Tarkanian, often called “Tark the Shark,” is best known for his time as head coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. His enigmatic squad featured Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon and won the 1990 National Championship over the Duke Blue Devils by a record 30 points. The year after the national championship win, Tarkanian’s Rebels went 34-0 before losing to Duke in the Final Four.
Tarkanian had a combined record of 761-202 at UNLV, Long Beach State and his alma mater Fresno State, according to sports-reference.com. The NCAA recognizes 729 Division 1 wins, with Long Beach State moving up to Division 1 during Tarkanian's tenure. Tarkanian's teams failed to win at least 20 games just twice in 31 seasons. He led UNLV to four Final Four appearances, and led both Long Beach State and Fresno State to multiple NCAA tournament appearances. Tarkanian spent 1973 to 1992 at UNLV, where he went 509-105 (.829 winning percentage), and was enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. His teams at UNLV were known for playing fast, scoring a ton, defending hard and running the floor with energy.
Tarkanian often clashed with the NCAA. Ten different players from his UNLV championship team were suspended during the season for mostly minor infractions, according to a 2010 ESPN article. Tarkanian’s time at Long Beach State produced 23 NCAA violations as well, according to the same piece. After a 1991 photo of UNLV players with a convicted point shaver surfaced at the Las Vegas Review Journal, Tarkanian announced 1991-1992 would be his last season with the school amid growing tension because of the NCAA's persistant investigations. He eventually filed a lawsuit against the NCAA concerning their dogged investigation and won $2.5 million.
The colorful coach was known for his excitable nature and was often seen gnawing on a folded up towel on the bench. While he may have had his run-ins with governing bodies, his players were fond of him and defended his legacy.
The great coach passed the same week as colleague and fellow college basketball legend Dean Smith.
Friends, family and people across the basketball community have been sharing their remembrances of Tarkanian.
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.
â€” Danny Tarkanian (@DannyTarkanian) February 11, 2015
HOF coach & great friend Jerry Tarkanian has passed away. We've lost two icons in the same week. Sad week for all who love this great game.
â€” John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 11, 2015