College Sports

Jerry Tarkanian: The quotebook

UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian watches as his team defeats Maryland during a March 1986 game.
UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian watches as his team defeats Maryland during a March 1986 game. TNS

Jerry Tarkanian was always good for a quip. This collection of quotes by and about him tracks Mr. Tarkanian’s basketball career.

In his own words

• “We hope to get some good experience against a powerhouse like Hanford.” — Nov. 30, 1956 Bee as first-year coach Tarkanian prepares to send his San Joaquin Memorial High School varsity team against the host Hanford Bullpups that night. Tarkanian’s starting lineup goes 6 feet 5 inches, 5-6, 5-5, 5-4 and 5-4. Hanford, featuring two returning all-Central Yosemite League players, beats Memorial 46-27.

• “What you see is what you get with Boyd. No phoniness. He’s very caring, humble and considerate, and a tough competitor. If you ever measured how much he paced the sidelines, he would have led the nation in rushing.” — June 23, 1986 Bee, at Boyd Grant appreciation dinner.

• “I just don’t get here often enough. Every time I do I have a great time. Fresno is a special place for me.” — Feb. 27, 1992 after UNLV beat Fresno State 84-67 at Selland Arena. It was Tarkanian’s last road game as UNLV coach.

• “I just want to thank you for 19 wonderful years. I can’t talk.” — March 3, 1992 after UNLV’s final game with Tarkanian as coach. He was speaking to a sellout crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center.

• “I just want to be here when Robert Maxson gets run out of town. I want to be at that parade.” — Dec. 23, 1992, commenting in Las Vegas about his former boss at UNLV.

• “The biggest mistake I ever made in my whole career was Lloyd Daniels. That’s something I have to live with.” — Feb. 26, 1992. Daniels was a star recruit from New York City whose drug/law troubles after he signed with UNLV led to a series of events that ended with Tarkanian’s controversial resignation from the UNLV coaching job.

• “I really admire him. All the pressure in the world is on him. Never played a college game. First NBA game.” — Speaking of Lloyd Daniels’ early efforts with the San Antonio Spurs, coached at the time by Tarkanian, October 1992.

• “The University of Kentucky basketball program breaks more rules in a day than Western Kentucky does in a year. The NCAA doesn’t want to take on the big boys.” — in the newspaper column he wrote during his days at Long Beach State.

• “Fresno and Kentucky have the best basketball fans in the country.” — March 15, 1995 after Gary Colson resigned.

• “I don’t understand why any kid in the country wouldn’t want to come to school at Fresno State. If there’s any great players out there and they had a chance to go to Fresno State, they ought to jump at it. It’s a great opportunity.” — April 5, 1995 at campus news conference announcing his appointment as Fresno State men’s basketball coach.

• “I am extremely upset and concerned about what I consider to be unfair coverage of the Fresno State men’s basketball program by The Fresno Bee. The incident reported in the paper was, in my estimation, sensationalized and inaccurate. The situation was unfortunate, but it did not go beyond a shouting match between college kids.” — Oct. 11, 1995 in response to a disturbance five days earlier at the Black Angus restaurant that involved assistant coach Danny Tarkanian and three Fresno State players. Police detained the four at gunpoint.

• “I’m not making any excuses. We got totally destroyed.” — Nov. 15, 1995 after Weber State beat Fresno State 102-86 in Tarkanian’s first game as Bulldogs coach.

• “I think it’s terrible that such a big deal is made out of this. The police haven’t pressed any charges.” — Jan. 4, 1996, after several Fresno State players held a New Year’s Eve party at a north Fresno hotel that resulted in vandalism and lost property. Among the items that disappeared: A microwave oven.

• “It felt good. It felt good.” — Jan. 10, 1996 on both the Bulldogs’ 65-64 victory over No. 13 Utah in Salt Lake City two days earlier and the flying hug administered to Tarkanian by Bulldogs guard Dominick Young, who made the winning 3-pointer with less than a second to go.

• “Coaches I know go out after a clinic, drinking and partying and raising hell. But if one of their kids did anything, then they feel like they’ve got to get rid of them. They’ll say, ‘He’s a bum, get rid of him.’ What the hell, they did that themselves. There is no ideal world. It has to be a real world.” — Nov. 20, 1996 in the wake of several off-court incidents involving his players.

• “This is worse than anything I’ve experienced. Sometimes I feel like it was a big mistake coming here.” — March 23, 1997 as the FBI investigated possible point-shaving in Fresno State games.

• “I don’t think if a kid made a mistake when he’s 17 or 18 years old that we should turn our back on him forever.” — March 15, 1998 on “60 Minutes.” The CBS newsmagazine was reporting on the recruiting by Tarkanian of players with questionable backgrounds.

• “They don’t eat there for free. I eat there for free. Players aren’t allowed to eat for free.” — March 22, 2000 in response to allegations that Fresno State players were eating for free at Tomodachi Japanese Restaurant. This was the “rice bowl” incident.

• “When you don’t have any hobbies, what else is there to do?” March 18, 2001 on why he was still coaching at age 70.

• “I can tell you one thing — I’m an old man.” — March 13, 2002 after Fresno State lost 81-75 to Temple in opening round of National Invitation Tournament. It was Tarkanian’s last game as a coach.

“Eventually, every coach has to head for the pasture.” — March 15, 2002 while announcing his retirement from coaching. He became the senior development consultant for the Save Mart Center at $240,000 a year.

• “We won at UNLV because our guys played harder than anybody. You ask any coach in the country and they’ll tell you that. We did that because we had great pride and we were totally unselfish. That’s what I couldn’t get here in Fresno.” — On UNLV’s success.

What others said

• “John Wooden and John Thompson may laugh, but this is undoubtedly the best ballclub ever put together on the college level.” — Fresno State coach Gary Colson after UNLV beat the visiting Bulldogs 113-64 on Feb. 7, 1991. The Runnin’ Rebels, who had routed Duke in the 1990 championship game, lost to the Blue Devils in the 1991 Final Four to finish 34-1.

• “There’s nothing to do in this town. The people don’t go to the casinos or bars. There are no other activities besides basketball. He’s given us an identity.” — Close friend Fred Glausman in March 1992 of Tarkanian after UNLV’s final game with Tarkanian as coach.

• “It wasn’t just the phone calls. It was also the wonders of fax machines, voice mail and email.” — Fresno State President John Welty on the community pressure put on him to hire Tarkanian.

• “Talking to the Armenian community, it was as if, pardon the expression, ‘The Messiah has come here!’ ” — Father Sasoon Zumrookhdian, parish priest of St. Paul Armenian Church, in March 1997 on Tarkanian’s arrival as Fresno State coach.

• “As we complete (the Save Mart Center) it will be the House that Tark Built.” — Fresno State President John Welty, March 15, 2003, after Tarkanian announced his resignation as Bulldogs coach.

• “When he got his first college coaching job, I said if he stays in long enough he’ll retire with the highest winning percentage. He’s right up there. But, like Pete Rose, he’s had a lot of problems.” — Former UCLA Coach John Wooden, October 2003. Tarkanian’s winning percentage of .797 ranks sixth, two places behind Wooden’s .804.

• “Thank God for second chances, and thank God for Coach Tark. Coach Tark gave me many, many, many chances, and I’m just so thankful for what he did for me.” — Chris Herren, April 5, 2013, on learning of Tarkanian’s election to the the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Compiled by George Hostetter. Contact him:, (559) 441-6272 or @GeorgeHostetter on Twitter.