When I heard last week that UNLV would be unveiling a statue of former coach Jerry Tarkanian outside the Thomas & Mack Center, I immediately wondered the same thing I'm sure most people did.
Would Tarkanian be chewing on a towel?
Sure enough, artist renderings UNLV unveiled at a press conference Wednesday evening show Tarkanian sitting in a folding chair clad in his trademark short-sleeved shirt and tie and holding a towel to his mouth. The bronze statue, created by sculptor Brian Hanlon of Toms River, N.J., is expected to be finished sometime this summer.
"It's a real nice honor," the 82-year-old Tarkanian said at Wednesday's ceremony. "It means a lot to me, my family and the [former] players. It's really nice that the kids who were in the program are now being recognized for their accomplishments."
The statue for Tarkanian is the latest proof that the legendary coach is finally getting the recognition he deserves, albeit at a time when his failing health makes it difficult for him to appear in public anymore. Last month, it was announced during the Final Four in Atlanta that Tarkanian was finally voted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, a long overdue honor for a man who won 729 games and led UNLV to four Final Fours and the 1990 national championship.
Honors like these for Tarkanian surely would have come sooner were it not for his well-chronicled distaste for the NCAA. He was convinced NCAA investigators targeted him and his teams at UNLV and Long Beach State and he railed against selective enforcement, once memorably quipping, "The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it's going to give Cleveland State two more years' probation."
Tarkanian's statue is part of a larger push to honor the coach. UNLV will also establish a scholarship fund in his name.
It's probably no coincidence that the honors for Tarkanian are coming at a time when two of his former players are leading the UNLV program. Dave Rice is UNLV's head coach and Stacey Augmon is one of his assistants.