Fresno State mourns passing of hall of fame coach, alumnus Tarkanian

by Eddie Hughes


Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, a Fresno State alumnus, passed away Feb. 11 at a Las Vegas-area hospital with his family by his side. He was 84.

“Coach Tark, my father, the greatest man I have ever known, passed today to take his place in heaven. I will miss him every day of my life,” son Danny Tarkanian wrote on Twitter that morning. Danny played for his father at UNLV and coached under him for seven seasons at Fresno State.

Mr. Tarkanian is survived by his wife, Lois (also a Fresno State graduate), four children and seven grandchildren. The family attended a public memorial for Mr. Tarkanian at the Save Mart Center on Feb. 27.

Mr. Tarkanian earned national acclaim coaching UNLV to four appearances in the NCAA Final Four, including a national championship in 1990.

He played at Fresno State in 1954-55 and coached for the Bulldogs from 1995-2002 before retiring. He led the Bulldogs to six consecutive 20-win seasons and seven postseason appearances, including two straight NCAA tournament berths in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.

“Coach Tark, I often say, transcended basketball with me,” says Chris Herren, who played for Mr. Tarkanian at Fresno State from 1996-1999. “Yes, I played for this legend, but I also played for a very caring, emotional man who was always willing to be there.”

The Tarkanians donated $100,000 in 1998 to establish the Tarkanian Book Fund at Fresno State’s Henry Madden Library. Mr. Tarkanian’s jersey became the first ever retired at Fresno State in 2014. “He whole-heartedly cared about this community. This was his home, and he wanted to make it right and special,” Herren says. “So to see the community give back to him means the world to me.”

Mr. Tarkanian’s .803 career winning percentage at Fresno State, UNLV and Long Beach State ranks as the fourth-best in NCAA history. In 31 years coaching, he was 38-18 in 18 NCAA tournament appearances. He posted 778 career victories and was 104-79 at Fresno State — the third-most wins in school history.

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“Coach Tark made such an impact on me and the city of Fresno. He gave all of us who grew up on the West side of Fresno hope that we can make it out of our situation. He taught me how to bring the best out of those around me and how to make them feel good about themselves through difficult situations. I believe his biggest gift was simplifying whatever he was trying to communicate. My favorite saying of his was, ‘Why do a bunch of things good when you can do a few things great?’”

Demetrius Porter
former Fresno State guard


“Despite the massive successes he accomplished, Jerry Tarkanian was the most non-judgmental person I’ve ever met. He positively affected the lives of so many. There will never be another like him, and that is truly a shame.”

Jack Fertig
former Fresno State director of basketball operations.


“Jerry Tarkanian is one of the true legends in the coaching profession. Coach Tarkanian welcomed me in from the first day I arrived in Fresno. He loved the Bulldogs and stayed connected with our program throughout the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lois, and family during this extremely difficult time.”

Rodney Terry
Fresno State basketball coach