I ask Tarkanian if he ever thinks about what he will be when he is through coaching. He looks at the ceiling of his office and then out the window at the mountains. "I got no idea whatsoever," he says. "Seven months a year, I'm going 100 miles an hour. I go home and watch television, I can't follow the plots. I go to bed at night, I'm thinking about how to beat somebody we got coming up. The first thing in the morning is, You can't do that, you'll get murdered." He looks out the window again. "I don't have anything in mind to replace it."
"What do you think about when you think about getting old?"
Tarkanian smiles at that. "I think about getting back into the Final Four."
It is not impossible. Two of the best young players in the country are out there, just out of reach, trying to find a way into UNLV (see page 60). One of them, a kid named Lloyd Daniels, has made five stops at four high schools in the last three years. Tarkanian has Daniels set up in a Southern California junior college.
The other kid, Clifford Allen, is in a detention home in the Los Angeles area for armed robbery. "This kid's had a lot of trouble," Tarkanian says. "He was orphaned at five. He's a mess, and he's been like that since he was born. If it was you or me, who says we'd be any different? You find a way to give a kid like that a chance, who knows?"
There are a lot of people, of course, who aren't going to like that. Some of them are probably in the NCAA, some of them are probably teaching college. I know the argument—it isn't what college is for.
They may be right.
But in the end, academics isn't what's most important to Jerry Tarkanian. If it were, Jerry Tarkanian would not be one of the best-loved men in Las Vegas. If it were, Jerry Tarkanian would never have found his way out of Fresno.
But what you want to know, of course, is how Jerry Tarkanian found his way from Fresno to Las Vegas. And all I can tell you about that is, somebody else must have been driving.