OBIT: Coach Jerry Tarkanian of UNLV’s National Championship Basketball dead at 84 – Tola Adenle

February 11, 2015

Sports, USA

His usual courtside activityCHEWING ON A TOWELusa today

“Tark the Shark”, courtside doing his thing: chewing on a white towel

Alumni, Alumna, friends … of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball program, especially in the 80s &90s are mourning the passing of a real legend in the world of basketball programs. Jerry Tarkanian, who coached the college’s basketball program during its most glorious years passed away today in his hometown of Vegas.

The Runnin’ Rebels under Coach Tarkanian, was celebrated and imitated in playing style – and field dressing; they inspired awe, love and envy bordering on hatred in the late 80s and early 90s. Rebel fans also had their pet hated college teams, especially the Blue Devils of Duke University, the team that deprived the Rebels of back-to-back College Championship in 1991; the Rebels had humiliated the Devils in 1990 with a dominating performance. To pay back their embarrassing 30-point loss of the year before, the Devils did not allow the Rebels beyond the semifinals, a defeat that would  herald the decline of the Rebels and the forced resignation of Tark from UNLV. Of course Rebel fans saw it coming with the brackets showing the Rebels would play the Blue Devils at the semifinal game where an “obstruction” and an “offensive foul”and “obstruction” became interchangeable!

Coach Tark with Stacy Augmon and Larry Johnson of the National Championship Team

Stacy Augmon and Larry Johnson, co-players on UNLV’s history-making National Champions and back-to-back Final Four in 1990 and 1991 pose with Coach Tarkanian at their jerseys retirement.  Johnson was the 1991 No 1 Pick while Augmon and team leader, Greg Anthony were picked in the top 12 at the same draft.  It was a great  day for Tark who had made the University of Nevada-Las Vegas suddenly a HOT college.  Never again would Reno (University of Nevada-Reno) be able to look at UNLV as some poor relation … TOLA

And, no thanks to the hounding of the Program and Tark by the body that regulated basketball, the NCAA would descend heavily on UNLV, handing heavy penalty the body claimed arose because of dozens of “violations”, violations they had been trying to stick on him since his tenure at a previous college.  His offence?

Okay, I may be a biased commentator:  I was a resident of Vegas when two of my kids graduated from UNLV during those heady Runnin’ Rebel years, a third had two years of college there before moving East; a niece (Ronke’s daughter) and a nephew (Ayo’s daughter) are also UNLV graduates but the truth – as I saw it – must be told!

Tark had earlier, before his stint as UNLV coach, written a newspaper essay that would be used to haunt him for the rest of his career.  He said what most basketball lovers have always known: that the NCAA does not play fair, especially with small teams who dare to dream big. The UCLAs, the Dukes … have always been the Princes-Royal – Tark did not say that of College basketball.

Soon after the 1991 dethronement of one of college basketball’s most storied teams, the investigations – recruitment style, etcetera, all of which would stick like vecro on any college – would intensify so much that Tark was forced to resign from his UNLV coaching position by the end of the 1991/92 year.  The coach and his beloved wife, Lois, filed a lawsuit against the NCAA which did not allow the case to be called before settling out of court for millions of dollars but the body still had an ace:  to go to The Hall – Basketball’s Hall of Fame – Coach Tarkanian must be in the good books of the powerful guys who rule the very rich college basketball program.

Although Tark would coach again years later, things would never be the same again for a man whose charges adored and respected.

Tark never made any attempt to pretend and his feelings about the inequities that seem to always characterize the NCAA’s actions but he did make it to The Hall in 2013, news that was reported here.

The whole of Vegas, a town whose [sort of] siege mentality – borne of the generally condescendng mentality of those NOT from the western part of the USA – will miss him; so will the young men he coached.  It is a town that opens its heart to anyone who calls the town home; the Rebels, too, had that same mentality: they studied, played and did things together which showed in the on-court chemistry they displayed.  The Rebels were the first basketball team that wore a pair of tee shirts for their games: a round neck regular tee on top of which they wore singlet-style top; everybody, especially young kids love it, and love them.  I think it got the fat cats of NCAA even more riled.

Coach Tarkanian is survived by  Lois, his wife of 59 years, children and grandchildren.  May his consummate basketball mind find eternal rest, and may his very gentle soul find acceptance with God.

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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2015.  9:57 pm [GMT]

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