Sunday, April 06, 2008

Jerry Tarkanian Snubbed Again

This year, once again, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame decided to leave one of the greatest and most important coaches in the history of NCAA basketball out of their club. Shame on the NMBHOF for ignoring the significant achievements of Jerry Tarkanian!

The reason for leaving Tarkanian out must be based on his conflicts with the NCAA because his coaching accomplishments are truly astonishing.

Tarkanian was, indeed, found guilty of minor infractions by the NCAA at three different schools (Long Beach St., UNLV, Fresno St.), but he accused the NCAA of unfairly targeting him. He sued them and was victorious. He claimed to be innocent of the accusations, but insisted that many of the NCAA’s accusations were of violations that most every major program would be found guilty of if they were under the same microscope as his schools were. In 1998, Tarkanian was awarded a $2.5 million out-of-court settlement from the NCAA to end his harassment suit against them.

Many people still refer to a photo of three UNLV players from the 1990 championship team sitting in a hot tub with a notorious gambling cheat named Richard “the Fixer” Perry. The national sports media used this as “proof” that the UNLV basketball program was corrupt. The media never explained which games UNLV players supposedly “fixed”, but considering that their record was 69-6 over two seasons, and they beat Duke by 30 points (still a record margin of victory) in the 1990 title game, then didn't lose another game for an entire year before losing a rematch with Duke in the 1991 Final Four by two points, it seems unlikely they were involved in any wrongdoing.

Most of the accusations the NCAA pointed at Tarkanian and UNLV involved academic violations. There was never evidence of any UNLV player receiving money or unacceptable gifts from the school. There were just a few instances of players receiving improper academic assistance, and there was another violation for holding practices before the NCAA approved date for when teams can begin training together.

Jerry Tarkanian led UNLV to the Final Four four times (1977, 1987, 1990, 1991). They won the 1990 National Championship game, and are the only team from a Mid-Major conference to win the title since the tournament went to the 64-team format in the mid-1980’s.

He has a 990-228 career coaching record (81.3%). He has more Division 1 victories than Hall of Fame coaches John Wooden, Don Haskins, John Thompson, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, and most of the other college coaches already in the Hall of Fame. In addition, many legendary coaches, such as Bobby Knight, have come out in support of Tarkanian and insisted that his entry to the Hall of Fame shouldn't even be a tough decision. His career was wildly successful and he's on a short list of coaches that have gone to numerous Final Fours and won a NCAA title.

In 1995 the Hall of Fame elected a Russian basketball coach named Aleksandr Gomelsky, whose claim to fame was leading his team to an Olympic gold medal in 1988. Nice, but Tarkanian did better than that. How can they justify the selection of a good Russian coach over the selection of one of the most successful and interesting American coaches to ever live?

It’s time for the Hall of Fame to do the right thing and finally elect Jerry Tarkanian, the greatest basketball coach not already in the Hall, into the club where he belongs.


  1. Anonymous7:39 PM

    Its TERRIBLE that the NBA still has this vendetta against this man, just look at his total record in his career..

    UNLV 509-105
    Fresno St 153-80
    Long Beach St 116-17
    Pasadena City College 67-4
    Riverside City College 143-22

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