Love him, hate him or envy him, everyone's talking about Jerry Tarkanian.
South Alabama's Ronnie Arrow and Utah's Rick Majerus head the Tarkanian fan club among the coaches at the NCAA West Region playoffs starting today.Georgetown's John Thompson and Michigan State's Jud Heathcote respect Tarkanian but aren't about to cheer on his UNLV Runnin' Rebels.
And Stew Morrill, whose Montana team is the first to face UNLV, wonders why his Grizzlies got the honor.
Tarkanian put his team through a high-flying practice Thursday night before hundreds of vocal supporters, and he had bad news for the NCAA or any rival coaches hoping that he might retire after the season.
"My intentions are to remain at UNLV and work harder than I've ever worked and be madder than I've ever been," he said. He jested that he might stay another 30 years, until he is 90.
For 13 years, Tarkanian has been battling the NCAA. He said he's been "sick of it for a long time," but that the longer the conflict goes on, the more determined he is to stay.
When UNLV star forward Larry Johnson was asked how he planned to celebrate his 22nd birthday Thursday, Tarkanian interrupted his answer.
"Larry's going to go rent a movie, but that's probably a violation," he said.
Arrow and Majerus, whose teams face each other in the first round, may have an ulterior motive for flattering Tarkanian: a tad better treatment if either team makes it far enough to play the Rebels.
"Tark's a good friend of mine," said Arrow, the fourth-year coach of the Jaguars. "I yell for him every chance that I get. I think he does a helluva job of coaching."
Tarkanian complained about the tough draw in the West that his team faces to reach the Final Four. But Heathcote and Thompson aren't playing violins for the Shark.
"I don't think anybody's cheering for UNLV," Heathcote said. "Everybody will be hoping for David to slay Goliath."
Majerus said that some anti-UNLV feeling probably reflects that "America has an affinity for the underdog . . . I hope everybody wins but South Alabama."