LAS VEGAS — Doctors at a Las Vegas hospital decided to keep storied former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian overnight Wednesday for observation after a mild heart attack, despite originally planning to release him, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Mountainview Hospital spokeswoman Amanda Powell said Tarkanian’s status had not changed despite the change in plans. She said he is still doing “very well.”
Powell declined to give further details.
Son Danny Tarkanian, who planned to visit his father Wednesday evening, said his father is in the hospital’s intensive care unit receiving oxygen.
The 81-year-old former coach was having trouble with his oxygen levels and was being tested for pneumonia or other conditions, Danny Tarkanian said.
Danny Tarkanian said his sister, a nurse, was by their father’s side and optimistic.
“She’s not too worried yet,” he said. “At his age, pneumonia could be a pretty serious thing. We hope that’s not it and we certainly hope they find out what the problem is with why the oxygen’s not getting through.”
The heart attack was mild, Danny Tarkanian said. He said his father feels OK, but was scared when the attack happened.
Tarkanian’s daughter, Jodie Diamant, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal her father started wheezing during a doctor’s visit on Tuesday and was taken to the hospital. An EKG test showed he was having a heart attack.
Tarkanian coached the Runnin’ Rebels for 19 seasons from 1973 through 1992, taking his team to back-to-back Final Fours and winning the school’s first national championship in 1990. He finished with a 509-105 record at the school.
Tarkanian, nicknamed “Tark the Shark,” was known during his career as much for his wins on the court as his colorful personality and clashes off the court with NCAA and school administrators.
UNLV has embraced the coach since then, naming its basketball floor for him and hiring one of his former players, Dave Rice, to coach the team.
Fans of UNLV, which lost its first game in the NCAA tournament last week to Colorado, regularly gave Tarkanian rousing ovations as he attended games and sat courtside.