Ex-UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, ‘Tark the Shark,’ dies at 84

Story highlights

Jerry Tarkanian "made Runnin' Rebel basketball a brand name," UNLV president says

Tarkanian coached UNLV from 1973-1992, retired in 2002 after 38 seasons of coaching

UNLV won the 1990 national championship under legendary men's basketball coach

CNN  — 

Jerry Tarkanian, the legendary men’s basketball coach who won the 1990 national championship at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and who was known to battle with the NCAA, died Wednesday in Las Vegas. He was 84.

UNLV confirmed on its website the passing of the former Runnin’ Rebels head coach.

“Coach Tark, my father, the greatest man I have ever known, passed today, to take his place in heaven,” son Danny Tarkanian tweeted Wednesday.

“I will miss him every day of my life.”

Tarkanian had been hospitalized since Monday with respiratory problems and had been hospitalized three times in the last 10 months for various ailments, including two heart attacks, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“The UNLV community mourns the passing of Coach Jerry Tarkanian, and our condolences are with Jerry’s wife, Lois, and the Tarkanian family,” UNLV President Len Jessup said.

“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.”

Tarkanian, known as “Tark the Shark,” retired in 2002 after 38 seasons of coaching, including 31 in Division I. He coached UNLV from 1973-1992, taking the Runnin’ Rebels to four Final Fours and won the national championship in 1990 – a 103-73 win against Duke. The 30-point win set a record for margin of victory in the title game, a record that still stands.

At UNLV, he won 11 regular-season conference championships, seven tournament championships and made 12 NCAA tournament appearances, including a stretch of nine consecutive years.

After briefly coaching the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs in 1992, Tarkanian coached at Fresno State, his alma mater, from 1995 until his retirement in 2002.

“Jerry Tarkanian is one of the true legends in the coaching profession,” current Fresno State head men’s basketball coach Rodney Terry said. “He was successful at so many different levels in college basketball. Coach Tarkanian welcomed me in from the first day I arrived in Fresno. He loved the Bulldogs and stayed connected with our program throughout the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lois, and family during this extremely difficult time.”

Tarkanian wasn’t afraid to go up against the NCAA. He was investigated several times in his career and once sued the NCAA in 1992 for trying to suspend him while at UNLV for violations found when Tarkanian was at Long Beach State. In 1998, while he was with Fresno State, the NCAA reportedly settled with Tarkanian for $2.5 million.

Tarkanian compiled a career record of 784-202 while at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, the first UNLV coach or player to be enshrined.

Tarkanian is survived by his wife, Lois; four children; and seven grandchildren. A campus memorial event is being planned, according to the UNLV website.

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