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Community remembers Coach Jerry Tarkanian

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian, who built a basketball dynasty at UNLV but was defined more by his decades-long battle with the NCAA, died Wednesday after several years of health issues. He was 84.

Tarkanian put the run in the Runnin' Rebels, taking them to four Final Fours and winning a national championship in 1990.

His son, Danny Tarkanian, says his father fought an infection since he was hospitalized Monday in Las Vegas with breathing difficulty.

PHOTOS: Remembering Coach Tark

The family confirmed to 8 News NOW that Tarkanian will be laid to rest on Monday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Las Vegas.  It's closed to the public and only for family and close friends.  

VIDEO: 8 News NOW Remembers Coach Jerry Tarkanian -- Part 1

The family said they will hold a public memorial for the beloved coach on March 1 at the Thomas and Mack Center. A time for the event has not been set.

TIMELINE: Coach Tark's legendary tenure at UNLV

His teams were as flamboyant as the city, with light shows and fireworks for pre-game introductions and celebrities jockeying for position on the so-called Gucci Row courtside.

REAL-TIME: See how people are #RememberingTark on social media

He ended up beating the NCAA, too, collecting a $2.5 million settlement after suing the organization for trying to run him out of college basketball.

Family statement

"Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away this morning at Valley Hospital, surrounded by those he loved most: family, friends, and former players."

His wife, Lois, stated, “Jerry has been in fragile health since 2009. He fought his health problems with the same courage and tenacity he showed throughout his life. Our family thanks, from the bottom of our hearts, all those who have sent letters and prayers, who have shown their love for Jerry and support for our family, the numerous fans, and the many players who considered him a second father.

“Our hearts are broken but filled with incredible memories. You will be missed Tark.”

Statement from UNLV

“The UNLV community mourns the passing of Coach Jerry Tarkanian, and our condolences are with Jerry's wife, Lois, and the Tarkanian family.

“Coach Tarkanian's contribution to UNLV and Southern Nevada stretches far beyond the game of basketball. Many in Southern Nevada and around the nation were introduced to UNLV through Coach Tarkanian and the Runnin' Rebels. He made Runnin' Rebel basketball a brand name during his 19 years on campus, inspiring our community and creating a legacy that endures to this day. He will be deeply missed though fondly remembered as a college basketball icon and as one of the greats in our university's history.”

Statements from politicians

Governor Brian Sandoval:

“Jerry Tarkanian was the patriarch of the legendary UNLV Runnin' Rebels who built a dynasty that will leave a lasting legacy within college athletics. He was an innovative coach who mastered the amoeba defense and had an eye for talent having recruited some of the league's greatest players and helped these superstars achieve their full athletic potential and realize the capacity of their gifts. Coach Tarkanian will be forever memorialized by sports fans across the nation as an iconic figure who changed the sport. Nevadans will remember him as a man who brought fame to our young UNLV and a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. His wife Lois, and the entire family, will remain in my thoughts and prayers.”

Senator Dean Heller: 

"Today is a difficult day for Nevada as we have lost one of basketball's greatest trailblazers, legends, coaches, mentors and friends. Although Coach Tarkanian hasn't nervously chewed on a towel in the ‘Shark Tank' for more than two decades, he will remain a beloved figure in the Silver State and one the Nevada family will never forget. Undoubtedly, his influence in the world of basketball will be felt for years to come."

“Everyone who had the privilege of knowing Coach Tark has a heavy heart today. Lois, the entire Tarkanian family, and the UNLV community are in my thoughts and prayers during this extremely difficult time.”

Senator Harry Reid: 

“No one in Nevada history has been able to entertain crowds like Jerry Tarkanian and his legendary Runnin' Rebels; this includes renowned Vegas entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Cher and Celine Dion.

“We know the stories of Jerry on the court, they are renowned. But his work off the court has been just as important. Jerry taught young college athletes to be better people. Much of his success is a credit to his lovely wife, Lois, who invested her time to work with UNLV athletes in direct capacities, not the least of which was education.

“The Tarkanian family, from Jerry and Lois to their children and grandchildren, has dedicated their blood, sweat and tears to UNLV and to Las Vegas. Jerry's Runnin' Rebels, with their National Championship and exciting play, put UNLV and Las Vegas on the map, and their impact isn't going away any time soon.

“Jerry's mark on American athletics is significant not only because of his coaching ability, but also his fearlessness in taking on the brutal NCAA. They controlled, bullied and tried to embarrass him, but he never stopped fighting until they cried uncle. Jerry was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, which was long overdue.

“I have known Jerry, Lois and the Tarkanian family for many years. I know this is a difficult day for them and my thoughts are with them. I hope they take solace in the memories and joy Jerry has brought us all.”