Jerry Tarkanian, College Basketball Coach

Jerry Tarkanian, College Basketball Coach

“The secret is to have eight great players and four others who will cheer like crazy.”

Who he was

Known as “Tark the Shark,” Jerry Tarkanian was a college basketball coach who registered one of the highest winning percentages, 6th all-time, in the sport. He led the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), to several championships, winning one, and made its basketball program - and the entire university, by extension - the center of national attention. 

Tarkanian was born in Ohio to parents who had fled to the United States during the Genocide and who had met in America. He started to play basketball at an early age but moved on to coaching after he graduated from college. Starting his coaching career at a community colleges, he eventually moved on to bigger programs, first going to Long Beach State in California but settling at UNLV. 

His fearlessness is part of why he was able to lead small programs like those at Long Beach State, UNLV, and later, Fresno State, to the national championship tournament. Coupled with his brash attitude and inability to tolerate hypocrisy, Tarkanian became a thorn in the side of the governing body of college sports, the NCAA, criticizing it for double-standards and the exploitation of underprivileged youth. 

Tarkanian left a colorful and unique imprint on the history of college basketball and was consequently inducted into its hall of fame not long before his death. 

Interesting fact

Tarkanian’s signature habit during games was to chew on a towel. Accordingly, his statue outside the UNLV basketball arena features him chewing on a towel.

Learn more about him

Jerry Tarkanian: A true rebel if there ever was one - Yahoo! Sports

UNLV Pioneer: Jerry Tarkanian