Regardless of the
adversity—how many game suspensions for things like bench-clearing fights,
academic probations and nonpayments of hotel-room minibar tabs plagued
UNLV?—Tark the Shark's sometimes raunchy Rebels have done just that all season.
And in the tournament finale, this lovable rogue of a coach got his team so
focused and so fraught with emotion that it treated proud Duke as if it were
just another UC Irvine or Cal State-Fullerton. At the end, a heartwarming
scene: The so-called thugs of Vegas circled their bald little coach as he
hugged each and every one of them—Elmer Fudd congratulating all the cwazy
"We want to
win this championship bad," Johnson had said on Sunday, "so that the
NCAA guys will have to stare at that trophy on Coach's desk while they ask all
those questions during the next investigation."
But that's for
later. After Monday night's victory, the Runnin' Rebels quickly donned T-shirts
inscribed in honor of their mentor: SHARK TAKES HIS BITE. They had already
ordered others for back home that would do justice to themselves. Those shirts
would read THE NICE GUYS on the front and FINISHED FIRST on the back.