Jerry Tarkanian Coaching Bio


After spending 38 seasons as a collegiate basketball head coach, Jerry Tarkanian retired March 15, 2002, after spending the last seven years at the helm of Fresno State.

His last game came in the NIT against Temple, which ended the Bulldogs' 2001-02 season with a 81-75 victory at Selland Arena. But while his last game may have been a loss, his time spent at Fresno State can only be called a win.

When Tarkanian returned to Fresno State as head coach in 1995, he knew the task ahead was somewhat daunting. His engaging smile, easy way with a story and unwavering loyalty to his alma mater would certainly help him raise this basketball program to new levels of success. Those charming characteristics, however, are secondary to Tark’s true strengths — the ability to attract some of the nation’s best players and the desire to win.

A 1955 graduate of Fresno State, Tark shakes his head slowly when asked about his Bulldog program. By other standards, Tark’s six straight 20-win seasons would be deemed a major accomplishment. Not quite yet for this man, who has a national championship ring and a slew of NCAA tournament appearances.

Tarkanian led Fresno State to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2000 and '01, a 2001 WAC title and a 2002 WAC Tournament championship. In 2001, the Bulldogs reached the second round of the NCAA's before falling to defending champion Michigan State.

Tark was determined to reach the level of success with the Bulldogs that he enjoyed at UNLV. The wins were expected, the results of experience and hours of practice. He took losses more seriously than ever before, questioning, tinkering and examining. He was never happy with just conference titles. Making noise in the NCAA Tournament is what mattered most.

The 1999-00 season was a breakthrough. Tark guided the Bulldogs to a 24-10 record, WAC tournament title and the schools first NCAA tournament appearance since 1984. For Tark, it marked a great accomplishment of taking three different programs to "The Big Dance," his 17th NCAA tournament appearance. The Bulldogs took that one step father in 2001, winning 26 games and returning to the nation’s top 25.

In 30 seasons of Division I coaching Tarkanian finished his career with a record of 778-202 and was just the 12th coach to reach 700 career wins. On the night of his 700th victory, a nationally televised thriller over No. 15 New Mexico at Selland Arena, Tark graciously said only, "it’s a big conference win." While balloons and confetti rained down on the court, Tark’s players celebrated him, hugged him and basked in a once-in-a lifetime moment.

After his postgame press conference, the legendary coach paused briefly to enjoy congratulations then left Selland Arena surrounded by his grandchildren.

Such a moment belies the "Shark" as he barks instructions on the sideline and draws on instinct as he formulates a play in a huddle. Coaching is in Tark’s blood and Fresno State reaped the benefit of his resurgence.

After seven years with the Bulldogs, Tarkanian compiled a 153-80 mark, with trips to the postseason every year. His teams have competed in the NIT first round in 1997, '99 and '02 and advanced to the quarterfinals in 1996 and semifinals in 1998. A magical 2000 season came to an end with a first round NCAA tournament loss to Final Four-bound Wisconsin. Last season, the Bulldogs won a first round NCAA Tournament game for the first time in nearly 20 years.

His six consecutive 20-win seasons — the first time that feat has been accomplished in the history of Bulldog basketball — brought him to 29 20-win seasons in his career, the best among active coaches. He stands behind only Dean Smith on the all-time list who had 30 such seasons before retiring from the game in 1997.

Prior to his appointment at Fresno State, Tark coached at Long Beach State and UNLV, owning the distinction of having coached three major colleges to multiple 20-win seasons and brought each to a 20-win season in his first year at each school.

When Tarkanian moved to Division I basketball as coach at Long Beach Statefrom 1968–1973, "the Shark" was among the first coaches to use more than 3 black starters, violating an unwritten rule at the time, and pioneered the use of Junior College athletes

During his coaching career, he has led his teams to four appearances in the NCAA Final Four (UNLV in 1977, 1987, 1990 and 1991), one national championship (UNLV in 1989-90) and owns a 38-18 record in 18 NCAA tournament appearances. In 37 years at the major college and junior college levels he has never suffered a losing season. Forty-two of his players have been drafted by NBA teams, including 12 first-round selections.

While at Fresno State, Tarkanian battled with Kansas’ Roy Williams for the top spot in winning percentage among active coaches, separated by thousandths of a point. He finished fourth on the all-time win percentage list and reigned for several years as the all-time winningest coach prior to coming to Fresno State.

Tarkanian wasted no time bringing the Bulldogs back to national prominence when he took a team that had gone 13-15 the previous year and led it to a 22-win season, a third place WAC finish and the quarterfinals of the NIT during the 1995-96 season. In 1997-98 the Bulldogs were 21-13 and made it to the semifinals of the NIT before falling to 1997 Final Four participant Minnesota. NIT champion Cal defeated Fresno State in the first round of postseason play in 1999.

Since Tarkanian’s arrival the Fresno State program has become recognized as one of the best in the nation. The Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule included traditional basketball powers and challenging in-season tournament competition. Legendary coaches made visits to Selland Arena with their teams and the Red Wave enjoyed an unprecedented entertaining home schedule.

On the day Fresno State officials introduced him as the Bulldogs' new head coach, April 5, 1995, Tarkanian hinted at better days for the Bulldogs and the Red Wave.

"I never really thought this would happen, but if there was any way that I could end my coaching career here, this would be the best place," said Tarkanian, who had not coached at the college level since leaving UNLV at the end of the 1992 season. "It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m excited. I’ve always said that the Red Wave are perhaps the very best fans in the entire country, and hopefully we can get the program going to the level that will bring a lot of excitement and pride to the people in the San Joaquin Valley."

And the fans have responded. Selland Arena has enjoyed 106 sellouts in his seven years, making it one of the best home-court advantages on the West Coast.

Tark’s coaching career started in Fresno. Following his graduation from Fresno State, he started coaching in 1956 at San Joaquin Memorial High School. He also coached at Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, Calif. (1958) and Redlands (Calif.) High School (1959-60) prior to moving to Riverside (Calif.) City College for the 1961-62 season.

Tark made his first mark at Riverside when in five seasons at Riverside, Tarkanian led his teams to a 143-22 record and three consecutive state junior college championships. He then moved to Pasadena City College (1967-68), leading the Lancers to a 67-4 record and a state title. His seven-year junior college winning percentage of .891 (212-26) is the best at that level. In March of 1999, Tarkanian was inducted into the California Community College Sports Hall of Fame with a class that included Jill Angel (Orange Coast College), George Stanich, (Sacramento City College) and Bill Walsh (College of San Mateo).

Tark also served as a head coach in the NBA - coaching the San Antonio Spurs in 1992
Tarkanian was offered the Los Angeles Lakershead coaching job in 1977, but declined, continuing to coach college basketball.

Born Aug. 8, 1930, in Euclid, Ohio, Tarkanian attended Pasadena City College before transferring to Fresno State, where he played for the Bulldog basketball team in 1954 and 1955. He later earned his master’s degree with honors in educational management from University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif.

Tarkanian and his wife, Lois, also a Fresno State graduate, donated $100,000 to the university’s Madden Library in the spring of 1998 and have initiated the "Baskets for Books program, designed to continually support with library with annual book purchases.

The Tarkanians have four children, Pamela, Jodie, Danny, George, and seven grandchildren.

Tark Facts

·  Holds a win percentage of .803, fourth best all-time.

·  Had 778 career victories.

·  Became the eighth coach to reach the 750-victory mark at the major college level, defeating UTEP 108-56 on Jan. 25, 2001.

·  Led Fresno State to six consecutive 20-win seasons and seven postseason appearances, the first time that feat has been accomplished in Bulldog basketball history.

·  Tutored 42 players who were drafted by the NBA, including 12 first-round selections.

·  One of only a handful of coaches to lead three different schools to 20-win seasons. At each school, Tark recorded a 20-win season in his first year.

·  Led UNLV to the NCAA title in April 1990 (the Rebels defeated Duke 103-73 in posting the largest winning margin in NCAA championship game history).

·  Averaged 25.3 wins per season during his 30-year major college coaching career.

·  Led UNLV to Top 10 finishes in wire-service polls nine times (1976, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1992).

·  Won the 2001 Don Haskins Award for WAC Coach of the Year. He won or shared Big West Conference Coach of the Year honors seven times in 10 seasons. Also was named West Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1975.

·  Won 20 games or more for 17 consecutive season and 29 of 31 seasons as a Division I coach.

·  His 988 career collegiate coaching victories are the most ever counting all divisions.


Tark's Year-By-Year Coaching Record Career Breakdown

Overall (38 years)

988-228 (.813)

Major College (31 years)

778-202 (.794)

Junior College (7 years)

210-26 (.891)

at Fresno State (7 Years)

153-80 (.657)

at UNLV (19 years)

509-105 (.829)

at Long Beach State (Five years)

116-17 (.872)

at Pasadena City College (Two years)

67-4 (.944)

at Riverside City College (Five years)

143-22 (.868)

Fresno State Year-By-Year

2001-02

19-15

(NIT First Round)

2000-01

26-7!

(NCAA Second Round)

1999-00

24-10&

(NCAA First Round)

1998-99

21-12

(NIT First Round)

1997-98

21-13

(NIT Semifinals)

1996-97

20-12%

(NIT First Round)

1995-96

22-11

(NIT Quarterfinals)

Total

108-58

-

% WAC Pacific Division co-champions
& WAC Tournament Champions ! WAC Champions

UNLV Year-By-Year

1991-92

26-2*

-

1990-91

34-1*

(NCAA Final Four)

1989-90

35-5*

(NCAA Champion)

1988-89

29-8*

(NCAA Fourth Round)

1987-88

28-6*

(NCAA Second Round)

1986-87

37-2*

(NCAA Final Four)

1985-86

33-5*

(NCAA Third Round)

1984-85

28-4*

(NCAA Second Round)

1983-84

29-6*

(NCAA Third Round)

1982-83

28-3*

(NCAA Second Round)

1981-82

20-10

(NIT Second Round)

1980-81

16-12

-

1979-80

23-9

(NIT Fourth Place)

1978-79

21-8

-

1977-78

20-8

-

1976-77

29-3

(NCAA Final Four)

1975-76

29-2

(NCAA Second Round)

1974-75

24-5 #

(NCAA Second Round)

1973-74

20-6

-

Total

509-105

-

* Big West Conference championship
# West Coast Athletic Conference championship

Long Beach State Year-By-Year

1972-73

24-2*

(NCAA Second Round)

1971-72

23-3*

(NCAA Third Round)

1970-71

22-4*

(NCAA Third Round)

1969-70

24-5*

(NCAA Second Round)

1968-69

23-3

-

Total

116-17

-

* Big West Conference championship

Pasadena CC Year-By-Year

1967-68

32-3

-

1966-67

35-1

(California JC Champion)

Total

67-4

-

Riverside CC Year-By-Year

1965-66

31-1

(California JC Champion)

1964-65

31-5

(California JC Champion)

1963-64

35-0

(California JC Champion)

1962-63

32-3

-

1961-62

14-13

-

Total

143-22

-