Jerry Tarkanian

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Jerry Tarkanian
Sport(s)Basketball
Current position
TitleHead coach (Retired)
Biographical details
Born(1930-08-08) August 8, 1930 (age 83)
Euclid, Ohio
Playing career
1954–1955Fresno State
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1959–1961
1961–1966
1966–1968
1968–1973
1973–1992
1992
1995–2002
Antelope Valley Joint Union High School
Riverside City College
Pasadena City College
Long Beach State
UNLV
San Antonio Spurs
Fresno State
Head coaching record
Overall706–198
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship: (1990)
Regional Championships – Final Four (1977, 1987, 1990, 1991)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2013
 
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Jerry Tarkanian
Sport(s)Basketball
Current position
TitleHead coach (Retired)
Biographical details
Born(1930-08-08) August 8, 1930 (age 83)
Euclid, Ohio
Playing career
1954–1955Fresno State
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1959–1961
1961–1966
1966–1968
1968–1973
1973–1992
1992
1995–2002
Antelope Valley Joint Union High School
Riverside City College
Pasadena City College
Long Beach State
UNLV
San Antonio Spurs
Fresno State
Head coaching record
Overall706–198
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship: (1990)
Regional Championships – Final Four (1977, 1987, 1990, 1991)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2013

Jerry Esther Tarkanian (born August 8, 1930), also known as "Tark the Shark", is a retired college basketball coach known as one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history. He is also well known for his colorful behavior, including habitually chewing on a towel during games, and for his public criticisms and legendary clashes with the NCAA, which eventually paid Tarkanian the largest settlement in NCAA history.

Tarkanian coached at Long Beach State, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Fresno State University in his college career. He also coached the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association for twenty games during the 1992-93 NBA season.

With a 729–201 career coaching record (78.4%) across all college divisions, Tarkanian is in the top 21 for collegiate wins among all men's coaches. Only four other coaches have a higher winning percentage. He is also one of few college coaches to lead three different schools to 20-win seasons. He accomplished a 20-win season at each school in his first year. Tarkanian's first twelve teams won twenty or more games, setting a record that was not broken until 2013 when Thad Matta, who has coached at Butler University, Xavier University, and Ohio State University, recorded his thirteenth consecutive 20-plus win season (a streak that is still active).

After his first season of winning less than twenty games, Tarkanian did not have another season winning less than twenty until his final year at Fresno State in 2001–02 when his team won nineteen games. He recorded a total of twenty-nine seasons with twenty or more wins, with four of those seeing the Rebels win 30 or more, including a then-NCAA record 37 in 1987 and 34 in 1991. The 1990–91 UNLV team was the last to end the regular season undefeated until Wichita State finished the season undefeated in 2014.

One of Jerry's sons, Danny Tarkanian, played for him at UNLV and was an Academic All-American.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Tarkanian, the son of Armenian immigrants, was born in Euclid, Ohio and attended Pasadena City College in California. He later transferred to Fresno State where he played basketball for the Bulldogs in 1954 and 1955. He graduated in 1955. Later, he earned a master's degree in educational management from the University of Redlands.

Early coaching career[edit]

He began coaching high school basketball in California in 1956. From 1959–1961 he coached at Antelope Valley Joint Union High School, in Lancaster California. He then moved on to college ball at Riverside City College from 1961–1966 and Pasadena City College from 1966–68. He coached teams to four straight California junior college championships—three at Riverside, one at Pasadena.[1]

Long Beach State and UNLV[edit]

Tarkanian moved to Division I basketball as coach at Long Beach State from 1968–1973, where "the Shark" was among the first coaches to use more than 3 black starters, violating an unwritten rule at the time, and pioneered the use of Junior College athletes. Long Beach State soon became a regional power, and was avoided by UCLA and John Wooden, who wouldn't schedule them. Long Beach lost to UCLA by 2 points in the 1971 West Regional Final.

Tarkanian achieved much success at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, coaching the Runnin' Rebels from 1973–1992. In fact, it was Tarkanian's idea to call the team the "Runnin' Rebels." His teams were known for an up-tempo style, stifling defense, and going on long runs that turned close games into blowouts.

He took his UNLV teams to four Final Fours. In the first, in 1977 (only seven years after the program joined Division I), the Rebels lost to North Carolina in the semifinals. Ten years later, UNLV lost to Bob Knight's eventual national champion Indiana Hoosiers. Finally, in the 1990 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament Tarkanian led UNLV to the championship, prevailing 103–73 against Duke while setting a record for margin of victory in a championship game. The following year Tarkanian's undefeated Rebels met Duke again in the semifinals and lost 79–77.

Tarkanian had been under more or less constant scrutiny from the NCAA for most of his career (see below), but managed to weather the pressure until he signed Lloyd Daniels, a talented but troubled shooting guard from New York City. In 1987—just months before he was due to come to campus—Daniels was caught buying crack cocaine from an undercover policeman. While Tarkanian had been known for taking in troubled players, this was too much even for him, and he announced shortly afterward that Daniels would never play for UNLV. Not long after Daniels' arrest, it emerged he'd been led to UNLV by Richard Perry, a prominent gambler who had been convicted twice for sports bribery.[2]

Perry's involvement triggered yet another NCAA investigation, which ultimately resulted in the NCAA banning the Rebels from the 1991 NCAA Tournament only months after they won the title. However, the NCAA later agreed to a compromise which allowed UNLV to defend its title, but would see the Rebels banned from the 1992 tourney. Only a few months after UNLV's 1991 loss to Duke, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a picture showing three of Tarkanian's players in a hot tub with Perry. The picture had been taken in 1989, only months after Tarkanian claimed he'd warned his players to stay away from Perry. School president Robert Maxson had seen enough, and forced Tarkanian to announce he would resign at the end of the 1991–92 season.

NBA and return to college[edit]

Tarkanian was offered the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job in 1977, but declined, continuing to coach college basketball. Tarkanian was signed to coach the San Antonio Spurs in 1992, not long after leaving UNLV. However, he disagreed with Spurs owner Red McCombs over the need for experience at point guard. The Spurs had lost Rod Strickland to free agency in the offseason (he signed with Portland), leaving the Spurs without a point guard with significant NBA experience. The Spurs had signed Vinny Del Negro, a combo-guard from the Italian League, to replace Strickland. They also signed NBA journeyman Avery Johnson, formerly of the Houston Rockets, to a one-year contract. Tarkanian felt that the Spurs wouldn't be competitive without an experienced point guard, but McCombs disagreed. As a result, Tarkanian was fired after only 20 games with a 9–11 record. He received a $1.3 million settlement, which he used to fund a lawsuit against the NCAA.

Fresno State[edit]

He returned to college coaching at alma mater Fresno State from 1995–2002 and led them to six consecutive 20-win seasons. Tarkanian led the Bulldogs to five NIT tournaments and two NCAA appearances. He retired from coaching in 2002 with 778 career Division I wins. Following his retirement, Fresno State was placed on probation by the NCAA for violations committed by its men's basketball team under Tarkanian's watch.

Tarkanian and the NCAA[edit]

Tarkanian spent most of his career as a Division I coach in a battle with the NCAA. After he left Long Beach State, its basketball program was slapped with probation for recruiting violations which occurred under his watch.

Just months before the 1976–77 season, the NCAA placed UNLV on two years' probation for "questionable practices." Although the alleged violations dated back to 1971—before Tarkanian became coach—the NCAA pressured UNLV into suspending Tarkanian as coach for two years. Tarkanian sued, claiming the suspension violated his right to due process. In September 1977, a Nevada judge issued an injunction which reinstated Tarkanian as coach. The case eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled in 1988 that the NCAA had the right to discipline its member schools, reversing the 1977 injunction.[3] [4]

In the decade between the original suspension and the Supreme Court ruling, it was revealed that the NCAA's enforcement process was stacked heavily in the NCAA's favor—so heavily, in fact, that it created a perception that there was no due process. The enforcement staff was allowed to build cases on hearsay, and shared few of their findings with the targeted school. The resulting negative publicity led the NCAA to institute a clearer separation between the enforcement staff and the infractions committee, as well as a system for appeals. Also, hearsay evidence was no longer admissible in infractions cases.[5]

After being fired from the Spurs, Tarkanian sued the NCAA, claiming it had harassed him for over two decades. The harassment, Tarkanian claimed, started when he wrote a newspaper column alleging that the NCAA was more willing to punish less-prominent schools than big-name schools. Although the NCAA did not admit harassing Tarkanian, it settled out of court in 1998, paying him $2.5 million.

Other biographical details[edit]

His colorful autobiography, "Runnin' Rebel: Shark Tales of "Extra Benefits", Frank Sinatra and Winning it All" was released in October 2005 and was a major national seller.[citation needed]

Jerry Tarkanian is married to Las Vegas city councilwoman Lois Tarkanian. They have four children and ten grandchildren. One of their sons, Danny Tarkanian, was an All-American Honorable Mention college basketball player while playing for Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV.[6] He won the Republican nomination for Nevada secretary of state in the 2006 primary but lost in the general election. In 2010 he mounted an unsuccessful Republican primary campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Harry Reid.

Tarkanian is a good friend of college basketball coach Bob Knight. Tarkanian and Knight matched wits in the national semifinals of the 1987 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament in New Orleans, with Knight's Indiana Hoosiers defeating UNLV 97–93.

He also started a basketball school in Las Vegas, named The Tarkanian Basketball Academy.

His granddaughter Dannielle Diamant plays for Northwestern University women's basketball team.[7][8]

Head coaching record[edit]

SeasonTeamOverallConferenceStandingPostseason
Long Beach State (Independent/Big West Conference) (1968–1973)
1968–1969Long Beach State23–3
1969–1970Long Beach State23–510–01stNCAA West Regional 4th Place
1970–1971Long Beach State24–510–01stNCAA West Elite Eight
1971–1972Long Beach State25–410–21stNCAA West Elite Eight
1972–1973Long Beach State26–310–21stNCAA Regional 3rd Place
Long Beach State:122–2040–4
UNLV (WCAC) (1973–1975)
1973–1974UNLV20–610–43rd
1974–1975UNLV24–513–11stNCAA 2nd Round
UNLV:44–1123–5
UNLV Runnin' Rebels (Independent) (1975–1982)
1975–1976UNLV29–2NCAA 2nd Round
1976–1977UNLV29–3NCAA Final Four
1977–1978UNLV20–8
1978–1979UNLV21–8
1979–1980UNLV23–9NIT Semifinals
1980–1981UNLV16–12
1981–1982UNLV20–10NIT 2nd Round
UNLV:158–52
UNLV Runnin' Rebels (Big West) (1982–1992)
1982–1983UNLV28–315–11stNCAA 1st Round
1983–1984UNLV29–616–21stNCAA Sweet 16
1984–1985UNLV28–417–11stNCAA 2nd Round
1985–1986UNLV33–516–21stNCAA Sweet 16
1986–1987UNLV37–218–01stNCAA Final Four
1987–1988UNLV28–615–31stNCAA 2nd Round
1988–1989UNLV29–816–21stNCAA Elite Eight
1989–1990UNLV35–516–2T–1stNCAA Champion
1990–1991UNLV34–118–01stNCAA Final Four
1991–1992UNLV26–218–01st
UNLV:307–42165–12
UNLV:509–105204–19
Fresno State (WAC) (1995–2002)
1995–1996Fresno State22–1113–53rdNIT Quarterfinals
1996–1997Fresno State20–1212–4T–1st (Pacific)NIT 1st Round
1997–1998Fresno State21–1310–42nd (Pacific)NIT Semifinals
1998–1999Fresno State21–129–5T–2nd (Pacific)NIT 1st Round
1999–2000Fresno State24–1011–32ndNCAA 1st Round
2000–2001Fresno State26–713–31stNCAA 2nd Round
2001–2002Fresno State19–159–9T–5thNIT 1st Round
Fresno State:153–8077–33
Total:784–202

      National champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

Note: The record of 784–202 includes 6 NCAA tournament games vacated by the NCAA while at Long Beach State and 49 games vacated while at Fresno State. Excluding these games, the record would be 729–201.

See also[edit]

References[edit]