Jerry Tarkanian to finally enter Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Jerry Tarkanian announces his retirement from coaching during a news conference at Fresno State.
(Gary IKazanjian / Associated Press)
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Jerry Tarkanian, the droopy-eyed coach from California’s Central Valley known as “Tark the Shark,” will finally get his due Sunday when he joins former NBA defensive player of the year Gary Payton, All-Star forward Bernard King, fellow coach Rick Pitino and eight others for enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The 2013 class includes former NBA star Richie Guerin, former ABA standout Roger Brown, former Brazilian sharpshooter Oscar Schmidt, former college coach Guy Lewis, former WNBA star Dawn Staley, North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell, African American basketball pioneer E.B. Henderson and Russ Granik, former NBA deputy commissioner.

Tarkanian, 83, led Long Beach State and Nevada Las Vegas onto the national stage during a 31-year coaching career that ended at Fresno State, his alma mater, in 2002 with a record of 761–202.


His Runnin’ Rebels won the NCAA tournament in 1990 with a 103-73 victory over Duke and were 34-0 the next season before losing to the Blue Devils in a rematch in the NCAA semifinals. The next season would be his last at UNLV: The NCAA came calling after a photo of three Rebels players with Richard Perry, who had been convicted of fixing games, surfaced and pointed to improprieties in the program.

The rift between Tarkanian and the NCAA continued until college sport’s governing body settled a lawsuit in 1998 that awarded $2.5 million to Tarkanian, who had brought the suit against the NCAA because he claimed it tried to purposefully harm his coaching career.

But the man who specialized in reloading programs quickly with junior college transfers, favored up-tempo games and perfected the high-pressure “amoeba” defense was beloved by his players.

“Coach Tark deserves every bit to be in the Hall of Fame,” Larry Abney, a power forward from Nyack, N.Y., who played at Fresno State, told a reporter from the Fresno Bee. “What he did for me, what he did for the game of basketball, Jerry Tarkanian is the epitome of what a coach should be. He cared about his kids, taught life lessons, won lots of games and made basketball fun for a lot of people.”

Payton, an Oakland native who starred at Oregon State before rising to fame with the Seattle SuperSonics, averaged 16.3 points, 6.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game in 17 seasons, winning the NBA’s top defensive honor in the 1995-96 season.

King, the smooth, high-scoring forward from Fort Hamilton High in Brooklyn, averaged 22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals a game in 14 seasons that spanned 16 years. King missed two full seasons with injuries and played in only 19 and six games in two others because of injuries.


Pitino has coached at four universities, winning NCAA championships at Kentucky and Louisville, as well as with the Boston Celtics and New Yorks Knicks in the NBA. He led Louisville to the NCAA title last season and returns this fall with a college coaching record of 662–235.


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