Ron Agostini

Ron Agostini’s Two-Minute Drill: Remembering Tark the Shark, an original

Reading time, two minutes:

▪ Jerry Tarkanian truly believed he was Robin Hood. The NCAA thought he was Attila the Hun.

▪ The truth was that he was both and, without question, one of the most unforgettable coaches in the history of college basketball.

▪ Who had the audacity to fight the NCAA and, in the end, win? That’s Tark the Shark.

▪ He always acknowledged he wasn’t exactly a saint when it came to the rules. What he resented was the NCAA’s hypocrisy and selective enforcement.

▪ Those droopy eyes and hangdog expression disguised a truly exceptional coach whose teams played with flair and tenacity.

▪ His roots were embedded in the junior college ranks, and he made popular the recruiting of community college athletes.

▪ Which means Modesto Junior College and the rest owe the man a thank-you.

▪ One-on-one, he was disarming and funny. He had time for everyone from the janitor to the CEO.

▪ After games at Fresno State, you could always find Tark and his friends at the Elbow Room. And, by night’s end, he’d say hello.

▪ My favorite memory of Dean Smith was the final moments of the 1993 NCAA final, before Chris Webber’s wrongheaded timeout, and Smith in the huddle, smiling and looking each North Carolina player in the eye: “We’re going to win this game. We’re going to do it, and this is how ...”

▪ Tyrone Corbin, 7-19 as the Kings coach this season, deserved better treatment.

▪ A double hit: Corbin was promised he would finish the season. Then the team negotiated with successor George Karl while Corbin was still coach.

▪ The first priority for Karl is to make sure he’s physically able to accept this challenge. The No. 2 priority is to mold DeMarcus Cousins into a superstar. No. 3 is to make sure owner Vivek Ranadive doesn’t fire him after the first slump.

▪ Ranadive saved the Kings in Sacramento. Remember this as he flips through coaches like pancakes.

▪ Go figure: New Bills coach Rex Ryan vows to “build a bully” in Buffalo, then he signs Richie Incognito.

▪ At this point, I hope Tiger Woods finds peace of mind, which is more important than his crumbling golf game.

▪ Pebble Beach can’t look any better this weekend. What drought?

▪ Billy Casper was under-appreciated only to those who weren’t aware of his through-the-roof accomplishments.

▪ One reason Casper’s popularity didn’t match his skill was due to his come-from-nowhere win over Arnold Palmer, always the People’s Choice, in the 1966 U.S. Open.

▪ A lot of obits, and here’s another: The death last month of Whitney Reed, 82, the top-ranked tennis player in the country in 1961. He scored wins over Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Manuel Santana.

▪ The local hook: He played for MJC in 1951 and ’52, is a former Modesto Open champion and is a member of the MJC Sports Hall of Fame.

▪ Reed also beat Alex Olmedo, another MJC product.

▪ By all accounts: Reed lived a rollicking life.

▪ The football spins in slow motion almost into your living room, framed by a blue autumn sky, as it flies into the arms of a receiver. We’re grateful, Ed Sabol.

▪ Tarkanian’s legacies are the 1990 and ’91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, among the best-ever teams, along with the Thomas & Mack Center, and the Save Mart Center at Fresno State.

▪ The snapshot memory: Tark, leaning back in his seat on the bench, hands behind his head, relaxing as his Rebels finished off Duke 103-73 in the 1990 NCAA final.

▪ Tark was famous, infamous, a hero to some, a rogue to others. He was a slice of America.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.