Increasing pain in his legs has hindered Jerry Tarkanian’s ability to walk in recent years, requiring the former UNLV basketball coach to undergo a spinal operation Friday that was declared successful.
Tarkanian, 79, was resting in intensive care at Scripps Memorial Hospital near San Diego after the 21/2-hour surgery. A large bone spur that was compressing his spinal cord was removed.
“The doctors said surgery went very well,” his son Danny Tarkanian said. “He should be out of the woods, but there’s always that little risk.”
Tarkanian is expected to remain in intensive care through the weekend. He was on medication all week and unable to communicate much with his family. Danny Tarkanian said he briefly talked to his father Friday.
“He knew he was going into surgery, and obviously everybody gets a little nervous with that,” Danny Tarkanian said. “He barely recognized us for two days. It was very, very tough to see for a family member. It was very emotional for everybody.”
Danny Tarkanian, a point guard for the Rebels from 1981 to 1984, said his dad has talked a lot about recovering and attending the horse racing season at Del Mar this summer.
Jerry Tarkanian had a 509-105 record at UNLV from 1973 to 1992 and guided the Rebels to the 1990 NCAA championship. He lives in Las Vegas most of the year but spends summers in San Diego.
In recent weeks, Tarkanian fell twice at his condo in Pacific Beach and suffered injuries. He cracked two ribs after slipping in a Jacuzzi, and later took a harder fall in the house and fractured a shoulder.
The shoulder injury might require surgery, but Danny Tarkanian said, “As a family, we don’t want surgery because he has a history of heart problems, and when he goes under anesthesia there’s a risk of something happening.
“Over the last two years, he’s had a lot of pain in his legs. He’s had a tough time going out to the mailbox in the front yard, for example. His balance has been getting worse and worse. But now that this is over, we hope he’ll be able to move around better.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.