“Rebel With a Cause”: A chance to set the record straight
Danny Tarkanian’s biography of his father, Jerry Tarkanian’s coaching career brings context and new light to a legendary head coach vilified by the NCAA
For any Nevadan who lived through the Hall of Fame coaching tenure of Jerry Tarkanian, there’s now a definitive, biographical look at his successes and dealings with the NCAA.
“Rebel With a Cause” written by Jerry’s son, Danny Tarkanian, walks readers right through the life of Jerry Tarkanian while taking a more matter-of-fact look at Tarkanian’s dealings with the NCAA.
Danny, who played on UNLV’s first men’s basketball team to ever reach the No. 1 ranking while under his father as coach, said the writing process for the novel took years and was re-worked several times before it was finally released in February 2020.
“I’ve been writing it for a long, long time – recently after my father retired,” said Danny, a Gardnerville Ranchos resident. “I wrote it with a lot of emotion, as you can imagine, and I didn’t think the book would be well read.”
After deciding to re-write the book, Danny explained why using the facts of the NCAA cases against his father, showed just how vilified his father was by the NCAA.
“My dad felt that these college kids should receive a scholarship check or a stipend,” said Danny, which is a practice the NCAA now employs. “I think it gives readers a better understanding of the battle my father had with them (the NCAA) and that he was right in a lot of the things he was saying.”
The life of Jerry Tarkanian
While the novel doesn’t shy away from the issues Jerry Tarkanian had at UNLV, his time with the Runnin’ Rebels wasn’t the only story Danny was trying to tell.
From the opening foreword written by legendary Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, to his tenures at Long Beach State and Fresno State, Danny said his main interest was a biography to honor his father’s legacy.
Following the foreword, Danny starts the biography with the story of his father’s final moments in a Las Vegas hospital room before journeying down the successful yet polarizing coaching career of his father, Jerry.
“I decided to write this book about my father’s coaching career to provide a much truer, more honest and complete account of what can and really does happen in the world of big-time college athletics under the NCAA. I have done this with the sincere hope that what happened to my father cannot, and will not, ever happen again,” said Danny Tarkanian in the preface of “Rebel With a Cause.”
The staples of Jerry’s success as a head coach came with his relationship with his players, which Danny described as caring with a steady combination of sarcasm and wit.
One story in particular still stays with Danny today.
“My dad called the team together in the huddle and said, ‘you guys are all a bunch of bandits,’” explained Danny of a practice in 1993 at UNLV. “’Next time you pick up a scholarship check make sure you wear a mask because you’re robbing the university.’”
While Jerry’s most notable coaching success came at UNLV, Danny felt that taking readers through his entire coaching career best explained who his father was as a man.
Danny even went as far as to say that his father’s coaching accomplishments at Long Beach State were his greatest achievement.
For younger audiences who didn’t get to experience those historic teams, including the only men’s basketball team to ever win a title at UNLV, the book is an ideal way to get a first-hand account into one of the first coaches to not only be known for his modern-day defense, but also being one of the first coaches to give his shooters the “green light.”
Though the pandemic made it initially difficult for Danny to get “Rebel With a Cause” onto bookstore shelves, anyone who is interested in picking up a copy can find the book through Amazon, Google Books and other online book distributors.