On February 11, 2015, Jerry Tarkanian died from respiratory difficulties in his beloved city of Las Vegas. The flags of the City of Las Vegas were lowered to half staff on that day in tribute to the man. The following was an article I wrote on that day.
Jerry Tarkanian died today in Las Vegas at the age of 84. Tarkanian was one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. My initial game to watch this man coach his team was in the early 1970’s when he brought his Long Beach State’s nationally ranked team to Oklahoma City to play the Okla. City Chiefs, another Division One power of the day. A match-up between two Hall-0f-Fame coaches, the Abe Lemons/Jerry Tarkanian buzz was about as good as it gets. Two of the most colorful coaches in the history of the game, winners in all respects, loved to pit their teams against each other. Mr. Lemons and Mr. Tarkanian were friends in the coaching profession. They both loved exciting run and gun basketball. The games between their teams would be high scoring affairs. Tark the Shark’s 49ers came from behind in the second half to beat Abe’s boys this night. Again, as was his history, Abe Lemons, his team with a lead playing a run and gun style to go with a man defense, took his team out of what was working to try something else. OCU was on the verge to upset the Top Ten 49ers, but Abe outcoached himself as his team went into a zone in the second half and Tarkanian took advantage of the adjustment and pulled out the win.
I also remember when Tark brought his Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebs to OKC a few years later on a rainy night in OKC. The State Fairgrounds Arena leaked like an OCU defense and I was standing next to the men in the wings of the building discussing what to do. Finally, with heart felt friendship, the shook hands and told the officials that the game would be cancelled. Disappointed, I still got a memory of the two men making an educated decision that the floor was dangerous and the game would not be played. I could tell that both would go to dinner that night, as the conversation changed to where to eat. Friends just do that.
Remembering the past is important and Jerry Tarkanian was an original, a consummate coach, and a winner. His players respected him and loved playing for him. Tarkanian, as was others that have come and gone, such as Abe Lemons, Billy Tubbs, Al McGuire, Paul Hansen, and Eddie Sutton, were all made from the same cloth. They were, in many ways, not bigger than the game, unforgettable men that were men loaded with class.
(Jerry Tarkaian took some fine teams to the Final Four, winning one with Las Vegas. You can read the incidentials of Tark’s life at this site: www.http://sports.yahoo.com/news/son-former-unlv-coach-tarkanian-dies-las-vegas-171512953–ncaab.html)
Feature Photo: (January 21, 2011 – Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)