Tarkanian's ouster also embittered some former Rebel players. One of them, current NBA star Larry Johnson, has been known to cite Odessa College, the junior college in Texas he attended before enrolling at UNLV, when asked his alma mater. Those sour attitudes will change if Grgurich is brought onboard. Last week the NCAA cleared Grgurich, the man everyone in town knows as Gurg, of any wrongdoing in the Runnin' Rebs' eight-year-old infractions case.
"Tim is the perfect guy for the job," says Tarkanian, who finally settled his long-running legal battle with the university only three months ago. "He's the most loyal person I've known in my whole life. He'll work 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The kids all love him. I love him. I know he'll bring back a big part of the community."
As Grgurich prepares to ascend and complete the UNLV counterrevolution, there are several pungent ironies to the story. Grgurich was the assistant who conducted the improper out-of-season conditioning practice that the UNLV administration secretly videotaped in 1991 in an effort to discredit Tarkanian. Further, in 1980, when Grgurich resigned as head coach at Pittsburgh, the Panthers offered his job to none other than Rollie Massimino. Massimino accepted, then reneged. It seems he had gone back to his employers at Villanova and extracted something that prefigured the events of last week: a better deal.
It's left to Lois Tarkanian, Jerry's wife, to sum up the two seasons since her husband was turned out. "If Massimino was 30-2, do you think the fans would have stayed away?" she says. "Did Massimino lose his job because of the improper contract and the J.R. Rider affair, or because he didn't win enough? And are they bringing Tim Grgurich back because it's the just thing to do, or because they need to sell season tickets?"
As she poses each question, she knows you know the answer. "I've become a cynic," she says. "A big one."