For years, voters for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame routinely snubbed Jerry Tarkanian—much to the astonishment and dismay of the UNLV coaching legend’s legion of supporters. Finally, on September 8, 2013, Tarkanian got his due. Here’s the transcript from his induction speech, which a frail Tarkanian delivered with help from his wife, Lois:
For me, this celebration we are having makes me feel very grateful to be an American. Here, the eldest son of an Armenian immigrant, whose mother fled her homeland on horseback with only the clothes on her back, after her father and eldest brother were beheaded by Turkish soldiers. It was my mother who gave me her unconditional love and many second chances. I was 13 when my father died. My stepfather said I would never amount to anything so much [in] sports … and that I should look into becoming a barber. But my mother never gave up on me. So to Mom, and all my Armenian family, especially my brother, Myron, and my sister Alice, thank you for your love and loyalty all these years.
And to my wife of almost 60 years, who set aside her passion of books, ballet and theater to become my personal secretary and academic team tutor, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. No one could have been as supportive as you have been. You joined me on the roller coaster ride of basketball, and you never tired and you never gave up. And my sons and daughters who shared that ride … I thank each of you for helping me to be here today. You’ve been a tough, tight family. Here I am, the immigrant son, being inducted into the Hall of Fame—the epitome of my profession.
I have loved the game of basketball since my earliest memories. Basketball has been good to me. I have been able to be comrades with some of the finest individuals in the coaching profession. Sure, we can be fiery and competitive, and even argumentative, but we all loved the game—that special game of basketball. And deep down, most of us truly understand the other. Thank you for your friendship.
And finally, thank you all, the Hall of Fame, for giving me this special honor. It means so much to me, to our players, fans, coaches and staff. We are a part of you. That makes us very happy and very proud.