Armenian Assembly of America Mourns the Loss of Basketball Legend Jerry Tarkanian

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(Isaac Brekken/Associated Press)

By Taniel Koushakjian

AAANews Blog

February 13, 2015

On Wednesday, famed Universityof Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away. He was84. New first broke after son Danny Tarkanian, a former Republican candidateand UNLV basketball player himself, took to twitter. “I will miss him every day
of my life,” he said.

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Jerry Tarkanian was known
as coach “Tark the Shark,” a title attributed to the tenacious style of
basketball he coached, and the strong desire to win that he instilled in his
players. That style resulted in a national championship (1990), four NCAA Final
Four appearances (1977, 1987, 1990, 1991), four-time national coach of the year
(1977, 1983, 1984, 1990), and ten Big West conference championships (1983-92). Most
the accolades occurred as coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, but also include
his coaching years at Long Beach State and Fresno State, his alma mater. As the
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame puts it:

“Jerry Tarkanian beat the
odds, challenged the system, and wrinkled the feathers of basketball
traditionalist everywhere. But there is no arguing with success. His style,
charisma, and basketball IQ produced championships and turned out great players
for nearly 40 years.”

In 2013, Jerry Tarkanian
was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Interestingly, he refers to the
Armenian Genocide in his acceptance speech. An excerpt reads:

“For me this celebration we
are having makes me feel very grateful to be an American. Here, the eldest son
of an Armenian immigrant whose mother fled her homeland on horseback with only
the clothes on her back, after her father and brother were beheaded by Turkish soldiers,
it was my mother who gave me her unconditional love and many second chances. I
was 13 when my father died. My stepfather said I would never amount to anything
so much with sports all the time, and that I should look into becoming a
barber. But my mother never gave up on me. So to mom, and all my Armenian
family, especially my brother Myron and my sister Alice, thank you for your
loyalty and love all these years.”

Tarkanian inspired a lot
of people, especially Armenian Americans. “As an alumna of UNLV, I am deeply
saddened by the loss of Coach Tarkanian,” stated Bianka Dodov, Board Member of
the Armenian Assembly of America. “The Shark’s passion and devotion to the
Runnin’ Rebels inspired a generation and created a legacy that will forever
live on in UNLV, the city of Las Vegas, and college basketball,” Dodov said.

Both the New York Times
and the Fresno Bee referenced his mother’s survival of the genocide, and
provide through coverage of his life. Las Vegas Sun cartoonist Mike Smith made
this solemn cartoon about Tarkanian the day after his passing.

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In the last few days, Tarkanian
has won praise from so many notable people from so many different walks of life
that there is too much to republish here. The man was a legend and a class act.
He gave hope to his family, to his community, and to his city. It is truly
inspiring to see what the son of an Armenian Genocide survivor can accomplish
in country like America.

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
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