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What HBO’s ‘Winning Time’ gets wrong about Tark and the Lakers

Updated March 29, 2022 - 8:57 am

The actor who portrays Jerry Tarkanian in the current episode of HBO’s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” looks more like Tark’s fellow Las Vegas icon Don Rickles.

But the makeup artist is not the biggest problem in the retelling of how Lakers owner Jerry Buss pursued the UNLV legend to succeed Jerry West as coach during the dawn of the “Showtime” era more than 40 years ago.

Episode 3 fades to black by implying shadowy figures in Las Vegas had Tarkanian’s de facto agent killed for negotiating his potential exit from UNLV.

It’s accurate that Vic Weiss helped broker a deal in Los Angeles that Tark almost couldn’t refuse. It’s also true that Weiss wound up dead in the trunk of his Rolls Royce.

But from most accounts (except HBO’s), it wasn’t because Weiss was trying to get Tark to leave Las Vegas.

While the mob-hit style murder of his pal was never solved, detectives believe it happened because Weiss had accrued gambling debts and was skimming laundered money.

Tark no longer is around to tell his side of the story. But he told it to Dan Wetzel, Yahoo sports columnist and author of a 2013 book called “Runnin’ Rebel.”

“The Long Beach newspaper ran an article that said the Vegas mob got (Weiss) because he was trying to get me to leave UNLV,” Tarkanian said in the book. “It said the mob didn’t want to lose me as coach of the Rebels. But that was crazy.

“If nothing had happened, I would have taken the Lakers’ job. But because there was the murder, everything got put on hold.”

About two weeks later, during a meeting with Buss at the Desert Inn, Tarkanian had a change of heart about coaching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson.

“I was crushed because of Vic,” he admitted in the book. “Plus, by that point, I had so many people talking to me about staying at UNLV. People said ‘Jerry, this whole town stood by you (during his initial battles with the NCAA), supported you, and if you leave now, it would be a slap in their face.

“So I turned the job down and decided to stay at UNLV.”

Around the horn

■ Darnell Washington was good enough to score 22 points and pull down 20 rebounds in a basketball game for Desert Pines High. But his passion for the sport has put him on the sidelines at Georgia.

The 6-foot-8-inch, 280-pound junior tight end suffered an ankle injury while playing pickup basketball and will miss spring football, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Washington caught a pass for 9 yards in Georgia’s 33-18 national championship game victory over Alabama in January.

■ Bowling for dollars: In 2009, the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships held at a temporary facility at Cashman Center generated a non-gaming economic impact of more than $120 million, according to Las Vegas Events president Pat Christenson.

Now you know why casino owner Michael Gaughan built a permanent facility to attract the event to Las Vegas on a more regular basis. This year’s USBC Open at the South Point Bowling Plaza began March 12, will run for 129 consecutive days through July 19 and is expected to attract more than 47,000 bowlers from Milwaukee and other places.

■ Name I thought I’d never seen in context with the opening week of baseball spring training: former Las Vegas Star Tim Pyznarski, who despite playing in only 15 MLB games was anointed one of the game’s “Future Stars,” according to his Topps baseball card.

“Topps was sometimes known to play a little fast and loose with that ‘Future Stars’ designation …” needled the popular social media site Super 70s Sports this past week, neglecting to point out that Pyznarski batted .326 with 23 homers, 119 RBIs and 25 stolen bases for the 1986 Las Vegas Stars, thus warranting the designation.


Sign of the times, according to Twitter user El Guapo who wrote of the Loyola Ramblers’ No. 1 supporter: “Sister Jean announcing she is entering the transfer portal and plans on enrolling at @ St Peters.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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