Wednesday, February 11, 2015
R.I.P UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian, Rebel with a cause has died
Highly touted Mike O'Koren lived minutes from Sinatra's hometown of Hoboken, N.J., and had a mom who was a fan of Ol' Blue Eyes, so Tarkanian dispatched his good friend to make a recruiting pitch rather than going on a home visit himself.
"I figured if we got Frank into that living room in Jersey City, there was no way we wouldn't get Mike O'Koren," Tarkanian wrote in his 2005 autobiography "Runnin' Rebel."
O'Koren eventually chose North Carolina over UNLV in 1976 in spite of Sinatra's best efforts, but Tarkanian's audaciousness was still an early harbinger of a character trait that would lead to both championship glory and NCAA scandal. The polarizing coach was a maverick who did things his way and only his way, which is how he'll be remembered in the wake of his death Wednesday at 84.
Tarkanian took UNLV to four Final Fours and won the 1990 national championship utilizing players contemporaries such as Dean Smith or Bob Knight never would have recruited. He gave second chances to talented prospects with rap sheets or checkered academic histories and taught them a high-scoring, action-packed style of play characterized by a stifling full-court press that fueled most of the offense.
UNLV's rapid ascent made Las Vegas synonymous with something other than gambling and prostitutes and turned Tarkanian into a towel-chomping icon, but it also attracted scrutiny from NCAA investigators.
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