Jerry Tarkanian’s long basketball journey is finally complete.
What was known last week became official Monday when the legendary UNLV coach was announced as an inductee to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The ceremony is Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass.
“It’s a real exciting time for me,” Tarkanian said at the announcement in Atlanta. “I think it validates everything I’ve done.
“Everyone’s been so nice. I’m having a wonderful time.”
Tarkanian’s wife Lois said: “It’s a wonderful day and I’m really, really pleased. I feel extreme gratitude to all the players and coaches who helped Jerry’s success along the way, and all of those who supported him and worked with him. And I’m thankful to the Hall of Fame for taking Jerry in. He deserves to be in.”
Joining Tarkanian, 82, in the Hall’s 12-member class of 2013 are NBA defensive standout and fellow Las Vegas resident Gary Payton, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, former University of Houston coach Guy V. Lewis, NBA star Bernard King, North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley.
Five others were selected through the Hall’s other committees in February — E.B. Henderson (Early African-American Pioneers), Roger Brown (ABA), Oscar Schmidt (International), Richie Guerin (Veterans) and Russ Granik (Contributor).
Tarkanian learned Wednesday he was finally in after failing in several attempts to gain induction. Most of Tarkanian’s family feared he would never get in despite his lofty credentials, which included taking UNLV to the Final Four four times (1977, 1987, 1990 and 1991), winning the 1990 national championship and winning 784 games as a Division I coach at three schools (Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State). In 19 years at UNLV, Tarkanian was 509-105.
“I didn’t think it would happen,” Tarkanian’s son Danny said. “I’m very happy for my dad and to see him enjoying it. But it never changed my opinion. I’ve always thought he was the greatest coach, whether he was in the Hall of Fame or not.”
Tarkanian’s daughter Pam also feared her father wouldn’t live to see this day.
“With all that had happened in the past, I didn’t think he’d get in while he was alive,” she said. “But I’m thrilled for him. For me, it’s a level of respect from his peers and it’s universal respect for what he did.”
Tarkanian’s daughter Jodie Diamant refused to accept the idea that he never would be inducted. She was the impetus for his successful candidacy, putting together his resume and following through with the Hall to make sure everything was in order to get him on the ballot.
Having been named a finalist in February, Tarkanian was selected among five inductees by the Hall’s North American Committee. He reportedly received 23 of the 24 votes from the Honors Committee; a candidate needed a minimum of 18 votes to be inducted.
“Jodie wanted to make this happen, and she believed all the way to the end that he was going to get in,” Danny Tarkanian said. “We’re grateful to the committee for their support of my dad’s candidacy.”
Pam Tarkanian said, “It gives you hope that good things can still happen to good people.”
Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said he was glad to see Jerry Tarkanian finally gain induction.
“Time has a way of healing things,” Colangelo said. “And in this case, time worked in his favor.
“I’ve always had respect for Jerry as a coach. He was a winner. He was a character. He won a lot of games. He offered a lot to the sport.”
Colangelo said while Tarkanian’s credentials did not change, those who passed judgment on his candidacy did. And that’s why he’s finally in.
“The committee changes and the people who do the voting change,” Colangelo said. “Those who may have had issues, whether they’re real or perceived, are no longer involved.”
Tim Grgurich, Tarkanian’s longtime assistant at UNLV and who later coached Payton in the NBA, was thrilled to see them go in together.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this day for Coach.” Grgurich said. “Coach Tark took me and so many others in when we needed it. I had gotten fired from Pittsburgh, and he gave me a chance to work. He helped change me as a coach. I’m a blessed guy today.”
Tarkanian said he wasn’t sure who would present him at the induction ceremony. The Hall of Fame requires that a standing member of the Hall be chosen as a presenter.
“We’ve talked about a few names, but my dad hasn’t decided yet,” Danny Tarkanian said.
The ceremony is open to the public and tickets are currently available through the Hall’s website hoophall.com.
“For most of his (11) grandchildren, they never got to see him coach, so this will be special,” Danny Tarkanian said.
Pam Tarkanian added: “The grandkids are all excited to have the chance to share this with him. It’s really neat.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.