Tarkanian will also throw away pants after a loss, and shoes and his shirt and jacket, not wanting the bad luck hiding in those clothes to visit him again. It is possible, a friend of his observed, that all across Las Vegas there are guys walking around in green-and-yellow checkered pants they got at Goodwill, wondering why they can't get their jump shots to fall anymore.
"The worst thing you can do," Tarkanian says, looking out over the steering wheel at the mountains, "is blame your players when you lose." He looks from the mountains to the rearview mirror, then out both sides of the car.
"When you win, give them the credit. When you lose, take the blame yourself. These are kids, you're grown up. Not that it helps. Losing—you never get used to it. Every time I win, I always say something good about the other coach, because I know how he feels. I especially do that if he's taking some heat at his school.
"That's why I only hire assistant coaches that were fired someplace else. Seven of them in the last five years. You know, the NCAA tried to get me fired, and I remember that feeling...."
He is looking back in the rearview mirror as he says this, shaking his head in a disappointed way. "Where the hell are we now?"
The next time I visit Jerry Tarkanian, I drive myself. It turns out you can get to the UNLV campus from downtown Las Vegas without even going out of town.
Thomas and Mack Center, in fact, where the Runnin' Rebels play home games and Tarkanian keeps his office, is only a couple of miles off the strip. It is a beautiful building and a beautiful office. On one wall are pictures of Tarkanian in the embrace of most of the famous people in the world, on another wall are pictures of Tarkanian and all of the teams he has coached at UNLV.
All except three, '73-74, '80-81 and '81-82.
"I hated three teams since I've been here," he says. "When I hate a team, I tell them. Not only do I not have a banquet when I hate the team, I don't put up pictures. I don't like being reminded of being around those guys."
He sits behind a large desk in designer sun glasses, looking younger than he does in any of the pictures around him. Tarkanian has a face that belongs to a hundred hitchhikers you have passed on the highway—you think about them for the next hundred miles because up close they looked so sad.