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Legendary UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian Has Died

Updated: Feb 11 at 1 p.m.

Legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian died Wednesday morning, according to his son Danny Tarkanian.

Tarkanian, 84, died after being taken to Valley Hospital Monday. A son-in-law, Dr. Zafi Diamant, said Tuesday the coach had a respiratory ailment and infection. He had a second heart attack last April and was treated for pneumonia in November.

Danny Tarkanian announced his father's death on Twitter, saying, "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."

The Hall of Fame basketball coach, dubbed "Tark the Shark," led the 1990 UNLV team to the NCAA national title and the 1991 Runnin' Rebels to the Final Four. That team lost to Duke.

"The qualities that make UNLV a great university - opportunity, self determination and equality - are the same qualities that coach Tarkanian ingrained in his teams," said Dave Rice, current UNLV men's basketball coach, who was both a player on the 1990 championship team and assistant coach under Jerry Tarkanian.

"The impact of coach's contributions to our university, our community, his players and all of college basketball, is immeasurable," Rice said in a statement. "He saw something in me and gave me my first opportunity in coaching and I will be forever grateful. He will always be a part of UNLV, and our university is a better institution because of that."

A campus memorial event is being planned. Details will be announced soon.

Tarkanian, who coached the Runnin' Rebels from 1973 to 1992, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 8, 2013. He is the first UNLV coach or player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

"Our hearts are heavy today, as we've lost an icon - a leader who will be forever remembered," said UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy.

He compiled a Division I coaching record of 784-202, while at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State. His career also included a brief, 20-game stint as coach of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs in 1992.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney called the coach a Las Vegas icon. He predicted the Las Vegas Strip will go dark to remember the man known to many simply as Tark. 

Tarkanian's death comes on the heels of the passing of another legendary college basketball coach, North Carolina's Dean Smith, who died on Feb. 7.

Born on Aug. 8, 1930, in Euclid, Ohio, Tarkanian's basketball career began at Pasadena City College in California. He transferred to Fresno State in 1954 and played two years before graduating in 1955. After coaching at the high school level, Tarkanian moved into the junior college ranks.

In 1961, he became head coach at Riverside Community College, before moving on to Pasadena College where he coached for two years. Tarkanian went from Pasadena to Long Beach, where he was named head coach at Long Beach State.

In 1973, he became head coach at UNLV with his first team going 20-6. In 1975, he lead UNLV to its first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance where the lost to Arizona State in the second round. Then in 1977, the Rebels beat San Francisco, Utah and Idaho State in the NCAA Tournament to reach his first Final Four.

In 1995, he became head coach at his alma mater, Fresno State, remaining there until his retirement in 2002. Tarkanian is survived by his wife, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian; four children, Pam Tarkanian, Jodie Diamant, Danny Tarkanian, and George Tarkanian; and 11 grandchildren.

Here are several links to columns and stories on the life of Jerry Tarkanian

Jim Alexander, Press-Enterprise sports columnist, The Tarkanian story began right here

Chris Trevino, Long Beach Press Telegram, Jerry Tarkanian, former Long Beach State and UNLV coaching great, dies at 84

Gary Estwick, The Fresno Bee, "Still in the Game," The Fresno Bee's 2007 profile of Jerry Tarkanian.

Steve Carp, Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer, Legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian dies at 84
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