Jerry Tarkanian was one of the most successful head coaches in the history of college basketball, as he won 729 games in his 31 seasons and won 78.4% of his games. But he was also a controversial figure, as his battle with the NCAA went years and cost millions of dollars in legal fees.
The toll wasn’t felt solely in a financial sense either, because even with the insistence that the critiques of many didn’t bother him Tarkanian and his family were hurt by what came with the territory.
“I don’t think people realize how much it all hurt,” his wife Lois said in a story in today’s New York Times. “He says he never cared what people said, but he did. They broke his heart. All of it broke his heart.”
Now 82 years old and not in the best of health the question these days is whether or not Tarkanian can make a run at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, but given the history with the NCAA it’s been difficult for his candidacy to gain any traction.
But that’s not to say that he doesn’t have his supporters either.
“There is no doubt that his legacy has been absolutely set aside and is always looked at in terms of NCAA investigations,” [ESPN analyst Dick] Vitale says. “I think that’s sad in many ways.”
[Former UNLV point guard Greg] Anthony, not surprisingly, strongly believes Tarkanian should be in the Hall of Fame, and [ESPN analyst Jay] Bilas says flatly: “I think it’s a no-brainer that he should be in the Hall of Fame. I don’t claim to understand how everything works, but if you look at who is in the Hall of Fame, he meets and exceeds those standards.”
The numbers don’t lie in regards to his coaching career, as Tarkanian’s winning percentage ranks among the the best to have ever patrolled the sidelines. But it’s the one “game” that took the most out of him, even with the receipt of a $2.5 million settlement, that serves as a roadblock to this very day.
College basketball’s “Father Flanagan” needs the Hall of Fame voters to give him a second chance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if they’re willing to do so.