With apologies to Wayne Newton, the real Mr. Las Vegas passed away Wednesday morning.
Jerry Tarkanian, who helped build a basketball dynasty at UNLV en route to four Final Four appearances, the 1990 national championship and a 2013 induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, died at the age of 84.
Tarkanian, also known among college basketball fans as “Tark the Shark”, had been hospitalized since Monday at Valley Hospital for a respiratory ailment and infection. It was the third time in 10 months he had been hospitalized.
Tarkanian’s son, Danny, a former star point guard for his father with the Runnin’ Rebels, announced his father’s passing this morning on twitter,
Coach Tark, my father, the greatest man I have ever known, passed today, to take his place in heaven. I will miss him every day of my life.
— Danny Tarkanian (@DannyTarkanian) February 11, 2015
Tarkanian retired in 2002 with a 729-201 record in 31 years of coaching at the Division I level at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State and a brief stint in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs. But it was his 19 years at UNLV, during which he compiled a 509-105 record, and turned college basketball into the hottest show in the entertainment capital of the world, that he will be best remembered for.
Tickets to the 18,500 seat Thomas & Mack Center those days were hard to come by as the Runnin’ Rebels rolled off 45 consecutive victories from 1990 to 1991, losing to Duke in the 1991 NCAA semifinals, 79-77, in the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis after humiliating the Blue Devils, 103-73, in the national title game a year earlier in Denver’s McNichols Arena.
The towel-chomping Tarkanian’s biggest win, though, may have come off the court when he collected a $2.5 million settlement from the NCAA after suing the organization for harassment.
Tarkanian is survived by his wife Lois and children Pamela, Jodie, Danny and George.
Check out some VIDEO tributes of Tark the Shark by ESPN and Yahoo below.