Legendary basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who took the Runnin' Rebels to four Final Fours and brought home the national championship in 1990, died Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Las Vegas. He was 84.
A campus memorial event is being planned. Details will be announced soon.
"The UNLV community mourns the passing of coach Jerry Tarkanian, and our condolences are with Jerry's wife, Lois, and the Tarkanian family," said UNLV President Len Jessup.
"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."
Current UNLV men's basketball head coach Dave Rice was both a player and assistant coach under Tarkanian. He said, "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."
Rice added, "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."
Tarkanian, who coached the Runnin' Rebels from 1973 to 1992, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 8, 2013, in recognition of his significant achievements as a basketball coach. He is the first UNLV coach or player to be enshrined.
Among the milestones achieved by Tarkanian, popularly known as "Tark the Shark," while serving as a collegiate head coach are:
- Setting a record margin of victory in a national men's basketball championship game when his 1990 Runnin' Rebels team defeated Duke 103-73. That 30-point margin still holds the record today.
- Compiling a Division I coaching record of 784-202 while at Long Beach State, UNLV, and Fresno State.
- Achieving a career winning percentage of .784, which, as recognized by NCAA, ranks 10th all-time.
- Becoming the second fastest coach to reach 700 career wins in NCAA history, behind only Kentucky's Adolph Rupp.
- Coaching Division I teams for a total of 31 years.
- Posting a 509-105 (.829) record at UNLV.
- Having a winning season each year at UNLV while coaching 13 players recognized as All-Americans a total of 20 times.
- Winning 11 regular-season conference championships, seven tournament championships, and making 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, including a string of nine straight -- all at UNLV.
- Coaching his final UNLV game on March 3, 1992, with the Rebels defeating Utah State 65-53. He left UNLV as the winningest coach in college basketball history (.835).
In addition to the Hall of Fame, a variety of honors have been bestowed upon Tarkanian over the years, including:
- In 2013 sculptor Brian Hanlon created a bronze statue of Tarkanian showing the coach biting on the omnipresent game-day towel as he leans forward in his chair, appearing to watch a suspenseful moment in a game. Underwritten by the UNLV Alumni Association and private donations, the sculpture sits outside the Thomas & Mack Center.
- In 2010, a year that marked the 20th anniversary of the national championship, the UNLV Alumni Association presented Tarkanian with its Silver State Award for his contributions to UNLV and to the Southern Nevada community. It is the highest honor the association awards to someone who is not a UNLV alumnus.
- In 2005, the university named the basketball court at the Thomas & Mack Center after Tarkanian.
- In 1998, was named to both UNLV's Athletics Hall of Fame and the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
- In 1983, was named Coach of the Year by the United Press International. Was also an eight-time conference coach of the year at UNLV.
UNLV Athletics Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy noted the lifelong bonds that Tarkanian formed with his players and their families. "Our hearts are heavy today, as we've lost an icon -- a leader who will be forever remembered," she said. "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."
Born Aug. 8, 1930, in Euclid, Ohio, Tarkanian earned an associate of arts degree from Pasadena City College in California before transferring to Fresno State, where he played basketball for the Bulldogs for two seasons before graduating in 1955 with a bachelor of arts degree. He later earned a master's degree in educational management from the University of Redlands.
He began his collegiate coaching career in 1961 at California's Riverside City College, later moving to Pasadena (Calif.) City College . Then in 1968 it was on to California State University, Long Beach. In 1973, he became head coach of the Runnin' Rebels, the fifth in program history. After leaving UNLV in 1992, he briefly coached the San Antonio Spurs later that year. In 1995 he became head coach at his alma mater, Fresno State, remaining with the Bulldogs until his retirement in 2002.
In 38 total seasons on the sideline, he won an all-time record 990 games, among all divisions including junior college,
Tarkanian is survived by his wife, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian; four children, Pam Tarkanian, Jodie Diamant, Danny Tarkanian, and George Tarkanian; and numerous grandchildren.