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Las Vegas Says Goodbye To Jerry Tarkanian

The Las Vegas valley has shown an out pouring of love and respect for the man known as Tark the Shark.

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Jerry Tarkanian, the long-time coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, died Wednesday at the age of 84.

His son Danny Tarkanian told KNPR’s State of Nevada he is surprised by the amount of support from the community.  

“It’s been so overwhelming for us,” Tarkanian said, “It makes it a lot easier for us to face this tough situation.”

Danny Tarkanian not only played basketball for his dad, he also was one of his assistant coaches and was his attorney. Tarkanian said lessons he learned from his father have shaped him into the person he is today. But the coach didn’t lecture, Tarkanian said his father always led by example.

The younger Tarkanian became emotional when talking about his father’s legacy.

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“In my eyes, he’s the greatest person I have ever met or will ever meet,” Tark said. He said he knows his father would want people to remember him simply as “a good person.”

A memorial is planned for March 1 at the Thomas & Mack Center for the whole community.

Social media has been full of messages of appreciation for the coach who brought the school so much basketball prestige during his tenure.

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Coach Dave Rice Remembers

Current UNLV Men’s Basketball Coach Dave Rice told KNPR’s State of Nevada that he wouldn’t be the man that is now without Coach Tark. Rice not only played for the legendary coach he also was his assistant coach.

But before becoming an assistant coach, Rice was headed into law or medicine until a fateful conversation with Tark.

“’I see something in you. I think you could be a great coach’” Rice quoted the coach telling him, “I owe that all to coach Tarkanian. I’ll forever be indebted to him.”

Rice said even after Tark had left coaching he would come to Runnin’ Rebels practices and games.

“He loved UNLV. He loved the Las Vegas community,” Rice said.

Through the rest of the year the Runnin’ Rebels will be wearing patches on their uniforms honoring Tarkanian.

Colin Cowheard on Tark

During his 19-years at UNLV, Tarkanian coached the Rebels to four Final Four appearances. With no professional sports team, Jerry Tarkanian’s Rebel basketball teams were the toast of the town. 

And nobody knew that better than Colin Cowherd. A five-time winner of Nevada’s Sportscaster of the Year award, Cowherd was a sports reporter for KVBC, Channel 3, in Las Vegas during the Running Rebels heyday under Coach Tarkanian.

Cowherd describes the coach as an authentic man who was honest almost to a fault.

He also credits Tarkanian with highlighting problems with the NCAA that are just now being recognized.

“What he said about the NCAA is true,” Cowherd said.

Cowherd admired how the coach would be willing to take big chances on players, which he says sometimes ended up burning him.

The radio show host said he was actually there at what he believes was the lowest point in Tark’s life.

The coach held a news conference following a cover story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that featured a picture of UNLV players in a hot tub with a convicted sports fixer.

“It felt like Tark had lost any support or momentum he had in the program,” Cowherd said. “It was another mound of dirt on the program.”

Cowherd believes Tarkanian’s resignation and the fallout divided the community.

“The one thing that really brought people together was UNLV basketball and when that eroded a part of the soul and the fabric of Las Vegas took a hit as well.”

Cowherd believes Tarkanian will be remembered for his fight against the power of the NCAA, his legendary independence and the risks he was willing to take on players.

“He deeply loved his family and absolutely lived for basketball.” Cowherd said. 

GUESTS:

Danny Tarkanian, son of Jerry Tarkanian

Dave Rice, current UNLV Men's Basketball coach

Colin Cowherd, ESPN Radio
Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.knpr.org/.

(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)