Legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian has passed away today in a Las Vegas hospital. He was 84 years old.
Jerry Tarkanian had been in the hospital since Monday night, dealing with low blood pressure and an infection, according to the Las Vegas Sun. The news of Tarkanian’s passing was reported by son Danny Tarkanian via 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
Jerry was a head college basketball coach from 1968-2002, most notably at UNLV. Tarkanian guided the Runnin’ Rebels to four Final Four appearances and an NCAA Championship title over Duke in 1990. Tarkanian’s win over Duke is the largest win over that program in the last 25 years.
Tarkanian was a mainstay in the Las Vegas community. As Vegas doesn’t have any professional sports teams, UNLV became the official Vegas team, with Tarkanian’s “Defense-creates-offense” play style making the Thomas and Mack arena the go-to destination during his tenure.
Fans took to Twitter to say their well-wishes and goodbyes to the legendary Hall of Fame coach.
— UNLV Athletics (@UNLVathletics) February 12, 2015
— Mark Anderson (@markanderson65) February 11, 2015
— City of Las Vegas (@CityOfLasVegas) February 11, 2015
— Rawlings Sports (@RawlingsSports) February 11, 2015
— The HURD (@usuHURD) February 11, 2015
Nicknamed “Tark the Shark,” Jerry retired in 2002 with 729 career wins as a coach. With a.784 win PCT, Tarkanian entered the Hall of Fame in 2013 with the 7th best winning percentage in NCAA history. The towel chomping Tarkanian fought consistently with the NCAA, eventually having the United States Supreme Court rule against them in 1988, saying his due process was violated when the NCAA suspended him for two years before the start of the 1976-77 season.
Tarkanian’s health had been failing in recent years, with frequent stays in the hospital. In a statement to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Lois Tarkanian released a statement regarding the death of her husband, Jerry.
“Jerry has been in fragile health since 2009. He fought his health problems with the same 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.”
Jerry Tarkanian’s legacy can clearly be seen at every home Rebels game, as the Runnin’ Rebels are coached by two of the members of that 1990 Championship team: head coach Dave Rice and Assistant Coach Stacey Augmon. Rice spoke to the media in Las Vegas today, reminiscing on his mentor.
“He always told me to do what was right. That was the thing as much as anything that he instilled in me and those around him — a commitment and a confidence to do what you felt was right for the people around you, not necessarily what was popular.”
Jerry Tarkanian will be remembered in Las Vegas for helping establish UNLV as a basketball powerhouse. He’ll be remembered throughout basketball as being an excellent coach who challenged the NCAA his whole career.
Jerry Tarkanian is survived by his wife Lois, his children Danny, George, Pamela, and Jodie, as well as 11 grandchildren and all of Las Vegas.
[Image via UNLV Athletics]