Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian dead at 84

Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:56pm EST
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - Jerry Tarkanian, a colorful, towel-chomping Hall of Fame basketball coach who transformed once-obscure University of Nevada-Las Vegas into a national powerhouse and won an NCAA title, died on Wednesday at age 84.

"Coach Tark, my father, the greatest man I have ever known, passed today, to take his place in heaven, Danny Tarkanian said on Twitter. "I will miss him every day of my life."

Tarkanian, known as "Tark the Shark" and for his penchant to gnaw on white towels during games, had been hospitalized in Las Vegas after suffering breathing difficulties and an infection on Monday.

"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," UNLV President Len Jessup said in a statement.

"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, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, often looked anguished on the sidelines and regularly chewed on a towel at courtside. A statue of him with a towel in his mouth was installed outside the UNLV arena.

Amid his success, Tarkanian had many well-publicized battles with the National Collegiate Athletic Association over everything from recruiting violations to what he claimed was personal harassment.

Tarkanian's teams were known for a fast-paced style that often led to blowouts, like when UNLV's Runnin' Rebels defeated Duke, 103-73, in the 1990 NCAA title game. He had a 509-105 record at UNLV and was 784-202 overall at Division 1 schools.   Continued...

CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz (R) interviews Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian during the announcement of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia in this file photo dated April 8, 2013.  REUTERS/Jeff Haynes