Jerry Tarkanian, who has been battling serious health problems for years and had a pacemaker and stents inserted in his heart after being rushed to the hospital in July, is planning to attend his Hall of Fame enshrinement next month, his son said.
Whether the former UNLV, Long Beach State and Fresno State coach, who also had a 20-game stint with the Spurs in 1992-93, will be able to speak at the Sept. 8 ceremony in Springfield, Mass., has not been determined. But, Danny Tarkanian said, “unless something happens” his father will “absolutely” make the trip as one of the 12 members of the Class of 2013.
“We’re hoping he’s going to be able to speak on his own,” Danny Tarkanian said Monday. “It’s going to be a close call. Some days he’s having a good day, other times he’s not. It’s hard to tell. He’s made great progress the last five days…. We’re hoping he will be strong enough to walk up there, with a walker, to give the speech.”
If Tark is unable to speak at the ceremony, someone will accept on his behalf, as has been with the case in the past if an honoree was too ill or unable to attend.
“It means a lot to him,” Danny Tarkanian said of his father’s long road to Springfield, a wait so long that the 83-year-old former coach was removed from the ballot for lack of support before returning to consideration on the latest ballot and getting the necessary support. “I think he was very happy when it happened. I don’t think he’s as cognizant as he would have been a few years ago. But this has picked him up spiritually.”
The choice for the presenter, who will accompany Tark to the stage but has no speaking role?
Bill Walton, in more than a little bit of irony.
“It is,” Danny Tarkanian said. “And it’s a nice irony, actually.”
Though Jerry Tarkanian had the ultimate respect for John Wooden and Wooden held his up-and-coming rival at Long Beach in such high regard that Wooden recommended Tark for the Indiana job that went to Bob Knight, the Tarkanian camp always held UCLA responsible for turning the NCAA on Tarkanian. The blame went to powerful athletic director J.D. Morgan and not Wooden, and Walton had not yet started his varsity reign, but Tarkanian picking a Bruin for the honor is good stuff for the history books.
That it would be Walton the individual, though, is no surprise. Walton was an early supporter, saying in the 1970s that the NCAA was unfairly targeting Tarkanian during years of pursuit, and they grew closer when Tarkanian began to spend several months a year in San Diego, Walton’s hometown, in addition to Las Vegas. When Tark had a serious health scare in San Diego and was hospitalized approximately six weeks, Walton kept in contact to see if he could help in any way.
“What we try to do now is we look back on all the positive things,” Danny Tarkanian said. “And a guy like Bill Walton, what he’s done, to have the chance that he would be the one to introduce him, is the best.”