clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Book Review: “Rebel With A Cause: The True Story Of Jerry Tarkanian” by Danny Tarkanian

Jerry Tarkanian’s son gives us a first-hand view on his father’s successful, controversial and enigmatic career.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Hounded by the NCAA almost every step of his Division I coaching career, former UNLV head men’s basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian is a figure that the history of college basketball simply can’t be told without.

His high-pressure defensive teams that fueled prolific offensive outputs threw his Runnin’ Rebel teams into the national spotlight during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, culminating in a 1990 National Championship run that featured one of the most exciting teams to ever hit the court in college basketball history. Love him or loathe him, most historians, fans, critics and sportswriters alike have an opinion on the soft-spoken coach, simply revered to by most as “The Shark”.

Written by his son Danny Tarkanian, the recently released book Rebel With A Cause: The True Story of Jerry Tarkanian is a glaringly accurate retelling of some of Tark’s finest and most defining moments throughout not just his career, but his life as well. Beginning the prologue, which details Tark’s final moments on a hospital bed in Las Vegas, surrounded by his wife, his four children, his family, his friends, his former players in Freddy Banks, Moses Scurry, Eldridge Hudson and phone calls from the likes of Melvin Ely and John Calipari, the wide impact of Tark’s impact in the basketball world and beyond can be felt.

The true Tark shows through at many moments throughout the surprisingly easy read as a man who never forgets his unique Armenian background, which shaped him as a person along the way. The book travels through the legendary coach’s stops at the junior college ranks and during his stays in college at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State. It even details what is described as “the shortest coaching stint in NBA history”, when Tark led the San Antonio Spurs for 20 games in 1992. The text finds itself as a listening ear, that is able to understand humor in it’s own shortcomings, especially those that defined the perfectly imperfect subject it follows.

Flanked by timeless photos of Tark and those he held closest to him, Rebel With A Cause never quits in it’s search to define who Jerry Tarkanian was beyond the bright lights of a nationally televised UNLV home game or his countless run-ins with the NCAA. The memorable contests are remembered as clear as if they were played yesterday, as is the antagonizing nature of college’s most powerful governing body, who never sees to move past their focus on the head coach. Danny Tarkanian does a masterful job in sharing who his father was to not just him, but all the people he knew and those who knew him, whether in actuality...or the man they believe they saw, sucking through a towel in a short-sleeved dress shirt on their television screen.

A must-have for any fan of UNLV and college basketball in general, Danny Tarkanian’s Rebel With A Cause: The True Story of Jerry Tarkanian could be the most definite look at the Hall of Fame head coach along his very successful and always turbulent coaching career. As a lover of coaching biographies, I’ve already read Runnin’ Rebel: Shark Tales of “Extra Benefits,” Frank Sinatra, and Winning It All, as well as Shark Attack: Jerry Tarkanian and His Battle With the NCAA and UNLV and believe that to complete the trinity of great Tark reads, this is the one that you need to get your hands on. The book can be purchased through most major online retailers, including Amazon.