Jerry Tarkanian, Legendary NCAA Hoops Coach, Remains Hospitalized With Pneumonia

Jerry Tarkanian

Jerry Tarkanian, a Hall of Fame basketball coach whose University of Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels squads of the 1970s and 1980s were some of the most entertaining college basketball teams ever, remained hospitalized late Friday at Valley Hospital in Las Vegas. His family said he was suffering from pneumonia.

Doctors were also checking to see if the 83-year-old Tarkanian, who has had a history of heart issues, had experienced a heart attack.

Jerry Tarkanian on Wednesday complained of weakness and trouble breathing when his family took him to the hospital. The coach, who also guided the Fresno State and Long Beach State men’s basketball programs, was admitted to the intensive care unit where he remained on Friday.

He’s doing a lot better,” his son Danny Tarkanian told The Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The doctors took the breathing tube out which was a good sign. But he’s still too weak. The doctors have been great. They’ve been on top of things and my father is getting great care and our family really appreciates everything Valley is doing for him.”

The coach whose nickname was “Tark the Shark” was reportedly sweating heavily when an ambulance rushed him to the hospital on Wednesday evening.

After spending most of Thursday under heavy sedation, Jerry Tarkanian was awake on Friday and starting to recover, according to a son-in-law, Zafi Diamant. Tarkanian was also speaking to doctors and family members.

While Tarkanian’s teams put on an always thrlling show with their fast-breaking, high-flying style, the colorful Tarkanian on the sideline was often just as entertaining. He almost never let go of his trademark, folded white towel which he clutched like a security blanket.

The towel usually ended up in his mouth, as Tarkanian dealt with the stress of the game by biting on it.

Jerry Tarkanian coached the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels for 19 years, from 1973 to 1992. He guided them to four Final Four appearances and one national championship, coming in 1990. The Jerry Tarkanian 1990/91 UNLV team ended the regular season undefeated, winning 34 straight games before falling to Duke in the Final Four.

Jerry Tarkanian coached one more season at UNLV, then jumped to the NBA, trying his hand with the San Antonio Spurs in 1992. But Jerry Tarkanian was simply not an NBA coach. He was fired after just 20 games, of which the Spurs won only nine.