Legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, architect of the famed Runnin' Rebels that for nearly two decades captivated Las Vegas and the basketball world - and captured the 1990 National Championship - passed away today at the age of 84.
Coach Tarkanian's impact on UNLV, Southern Nevada, and the game of basketball endures through the memories of his fans, friends, colleagues and former players. Here, leaders from across Nevada and around the basketball world remember coach "Tark."
"Jerry has been in fragile health since 2009. He fought his health problems with the same courage and tenacity he showed throughout his life. Our family thanks, from the bottom of our hearts, all those who have sent letters and prayers, who have shown their love for Jerry and support for our family, the numerous fans, and the many players who considered him a second father.
"Our hearts are broken but filled with incredible memories. You will be missed Tark."
Harry Reid - United States Senator (D-NV)
"No one in Nevada history has been able to entertain crowds like Jerry Tarkanian and his legendary Runnin' Rebels; this includes renowned Vegas entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Cher and Celine Dion.
"We know the stories of Jerry on the court, they are renowned. But his work off the court has been just as important. Jerry taught young college athletes to be better people. Much of his success is a credit to his lovely wife, Lois, who invested her time to work with UNLV athletes in direct capacities, not the least of which was education.
"The Tarkanian family, from Jerry and Lois to their children and grandchildren, has dedicated their blood, sweat and tears to UNLV and to Las Vegas. Jerry's Runnin' Rebels, with their National Championship and exciting play, put UNLV and Las Vegas on the map, and their impact isn't going away any time soon.
"Jerry's mark on American athletics is significant not only because of his coaching ability, but also his fearlessness in taking on the brutal NCAA. They controlled, bullied and tried to embarrass him, but he never stopped fighting until they cried uncle. Jerry was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, which was long overdue.
"I have known Jerry, Lois and the Tarkanian family for many years. I know this is a difficult day for them and my thoughts are with them. I hope they take solace in the memories and joy Jerry has brought us all."
Dean Heller - United States Senator (R-NV)
"Today is a difficult day for Nevada as we have lost one of basketball's greatest trailblazers, legends, coaches, mentors and friends. Although Coach Tarkanian hasn't nervously chewed on a towel in the 'Shark Tank' for more than two decades, he will remain a beloved figure in the Silver State and one the Nevada family will never forget. Undoubtedly, his influence in the world of basketball will be felt for years to come.
"Everyone who had the privilege of knowing Coach Tark has a heavy heart today. Lois, the entire Tarkanian family, and the UNLV community are in my thoughts and prayers during this extremely difficult time."
Brian Sandoval - Nevada Governor
"Jerry Tarkanian was the patriarch of the legendary UNLV Runnin' Rebels who built a dynasty that will leave a lasting legacy within college athletics. He was an innovative coach who mastered the amoeba defense and had an eye for talent having recruited some of the league's greatest players and helped these superstars achieve their full athletic potential and realize the capacity of their gifts. Coach Tarkanian will be forever memorialized by sports fans across the nation as an iconic figure who changed the sport. Nevadans will remember him as a man who brought fame to our young UNLV and a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. His wife Lois, and the entire family, will remain in my thoughts and prayers."
Steve Sisolak - Chair of Clark County Commission
"Jerry's passing is the end of an era. Those of us who lived through the heyday of the Runnin' Rebels will always look back fondly on that time. Jerry and his Runnin' Rebels created such great excitement and sense of community here. He lifted our spirits and brought us together. Today, we again come together as a community -- this time to mourn. It is a very, very sad day, indeed, but Las Vegas will always be grateful for the impact Jerry had on our lives."
Kevin Page, Rick Trachok - Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents
"Coach Tarkanian took UNLV's Runnin' Rebels to a national championship in 1990 and four Final Four appearances. He was an icon in college basketball and his spirit will be missed. My sympathies to the entire Tarkanian family." - Kevin J. Page, chairman of the Nevada Board of Regents.
"We have lost one of the sport's legends. Coach Tarkanian loved UNLV, his sport, and was a wonderful person. Our condolences to Lois Tarkanian and the Tarkanian family." - Rick Trachok, vice chairman
Len Jessup, UNLV President
"The UNLV community mourns the passing of coach Jerry Tarkanian, and our condolences are with Jerry's wife, Lois, and the Tarkanian family.
"Coach Tarkanian's contribution to UNLV and Southern Nevada stretches far beyond the game of basketball. Many in Southern Nevada and around the nation were introduced to UNLV through coach Tarkanian and the Runnin' Rebels. He made Runnin' Rebel basketball a brand name during his 19 years on campus, inspiring our community and creating a legacy that endures to this day. He will be deeply missed though fondly remembered as a college basketball icon and as one of the greats in our university's history."
Tina Kunzer-Murphy, UNLV Athletics Director
"Our hearts are heavy today, as we've lost an icon -- a leader who will be forever remembered. Coach Tarkanian was fiercely proud of UNLV. He loved his student-athletes and their families. And he cared deeply about the Las Vegas community.
"He was a fighter, and his teams reflected that same intensity and fighting spirit. He was never afraid to stand up for a cause, or a person, he believed in - and nothing was more important to him than fairness. He valued loyalty and dedication above all else, and returned it in equal measure. He coached with intensity, but lived a life defined by generosity.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach's family, his many friends, and the generations of players whose lives were bettered because of him. He will be deeply missed."
Dave Rice, UNLV Head Men's Basketball Coach/Former Player
"The qualities that make UNLV a great university - opportunity, self-determination and equality - are the same qualities that Coach Tarkanian ingrained in his teams.
"The impact of Coach's contributions to our university, our community, his players and all of college basketball, is immeasurable. He instilled in me a confidence and commitment to doing what I believe is right for all people I am around. 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. We are all saddened by this loss, our deepest condolences to the Tarkanian family."
Former players, family, colleagues, media members and friends from around the basketball world paid their respects to Coach Tark on Twitter:
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.
- Danny Tarkanian (@DannyTarkanian) February 11, 2015
Dick Vitale @Dickie V
A tough time-1st Dean Smith & now Jerry Tarkanian has passed / My sympathy goes out to his wife Lois & family RIP.
Jimmy Kimmel @jimmykimmel
we loved you Tark
Jay Bilas @JayBilas
RIP Jerry Tarkanian. Great coach, really good man. A true Hall of Famer.
Andy Katz @ESPNAndyKatz
My thoughts, prayers to the family of Jerry Tarkanian. I spent 4 years covering Tark every day in Fresno and will fondly cherish that time.
Doug Gottlieb @GottliebShow
RIP Tark the Shark - a legendary Rebel in every sense of the word
John Calipari @UKCoachCalipari
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.
Reggie Miller @ReggieMillerTNT
Heaven is fielding an unbelievable coaching roster, RIP Coach Jerry Tarkanian, one of the best.