Wednesday, December 13
Bayno, Tark deserve same medicine
By Adrian Wojnarowski
Special to

 Four years ago, I was visiting with Jerry Tarkanian in his office at Fresno State when he excused himself for a minute to take the call of a high school star. As it turns out, it was the best player in the country, Lamar Odom.

Tarkanian had recruited him hard, and Odom, like a lot of recruits, loved talking to Tark on the phone. In the end, Odom had no interest in picking Fresno State but, for whatever reason, listening to the World According to Tark was a strangely intriguing inspiration for him to call the coach in California.

Jerry Tarkanian
Jerry Tarkanian's willingness to recruit Lloyd Daniels while at UNLV ultimately led to his departure from the desert.

On this day, Tark used the conversation to push the UConn and Kentucky programs to Odom, asking him: "Don't you want someone who can get you ready for the pros?" The message was clear: If Odom didn't pick Fresno, Tark didn't want him picking those Runnin' Rebs of Vegas. This was a standard, rogue recruiting tactic: If I can't have you, make sure you don't go someplace where you'll beat me.

For Tark, there was forever a deeper motivation to make life hard on UNLV: The war waged with his old Vegas home had engulfed him, his anger transferred from deposed president Robert Maxson and the Nevada Board of Regents to vicious recruiting wars waged with the brash, young coach of the Runnin' Rebels, Bill Bayno.

Tark would've been wise to let Bayno and an ace recruiter named Shoes stay undeterred on his breathless pursuit of Odom, what with his own working knowledge of the recruiter and the recruit promising to have investigators parachuting into Vegas. After the NCAA pounded Vegas with four years' probation on Tuesday, UNLV fired Bayno on the spot. Bayno never won an NCAA Tournament game there, so unlike Tark, they wasted no time running him out of town when trouble hit.

Indeed, the NCAA made it to Vegas to chase down an old storyline on the strip: A modern-day Magic Johnson out of New York, bounced high school to high school with a dubious transcript, has a starry-eyed UNLV coach obliterating ethical lines to get him on scholarship. This was an old story, indeed. The beginning of the end for Tark was the night in 1987, when a functional illiterate, Lloyd Daniels, the original Magic replica out of New York City, was caught on tape during the 11 o'clock news buying crack from an undercover cop. For some reason, the NCAA was down on a local dentist and devout booster, David Chapman, a regular hanger-on of the program, paying out $5,600 to Odom.

Isn't it a fitting punishment for this renegade school that Daniels and Odom never played a minute for UNLV, and ultimately, they took down two coaches? It was hilarious to hear UNLV president Carol Harter on Tuesday wonder why the NCAA didn't show mercy when her school cut Odom loose after questions over the legitimacy of his grades and test scores were raised. Are you kidding? From the start, Odom was a chapter in "Raw Recruits" waiting to happen. Everyone chasing him understood this was the risk, but he was 6-foot-9, could handle and shoot, and man, they hadn't seen anyone like him in Vegas since, well, Sweetpea Daniels.

"We're not trying to whine about the penalty," Harter said, whining about the penalty. " ... But we're under a level of scrutiny that I dare say is extraordinarily difficult for an institute to survive."

Well, here's a little advice for President Harter: Stop cheating, and maybe NCAA investigators won't be such familiar faces that they get comped at the MGM Grand.

"The institution felt it was my fault," Bayno said. "But I wasn't charged with anything. The NCAA cleared me of wrongdoing. It's the nature of the business. This was a result of the NCAA's findings."

They never learn. Not Tark, not Bayno, not UNLV. Nobody is ever responsible, never accountable. Bayno made life hard for himself, a bachelor living a little too hard on the Strip, a little too loose with the AAU underworld and America's recruits. In the end, it comes down to this: A university wants to clean up its program, so it hires John Calipari's most loyal soldier out of UMass? They deserve every humiliating moment of this scandal. Why didn't Bayno hire the father of the nation's No. 1 high school player, Dajuan Wagner, as an assistant coach to get his kid to sign?

Because down in Memphis, Calipari beat him to it.

No, Bayno had one shot at the best player in America four years ago and he made a mess of it. If only Odom had listened to Tark, maybe Bayno could've stayed one step ahead of that NCAA posse. Doubtful, but maybe.

In the end, Tark didn't have to worry over losing to Bayno in the Western Athletic Conference anymore. Along with the power schools in the WAC, UNLV defected to create the Mountain West Conference. League officials wanted Fresno State, but it wasn't worth inviting the constant embarrassment of Tark. He had run the table on vices in Fresno, from a federal investigation into alleged point shaving, to samurai sword fights. When confronted with the fact several university officials in the Mountain West made it clear Tarkanian wasn't invited, he incredulously replied: "Why? What did I do?"

No, Tark did nothing. And Bayno? Neither did he. Nothing at all. Always, an innocent man goes down in Vegas. In the end, it's the fault of those damn boosters, isn't it? Or those vengeful NCAA investigators. Or those jock-sniffing dentists. Poor Tark. Poor Billy the Kid. In the end at Vegas, it's always some damn kid who never scored a point for you, anyway.

Adrian Wojnarowski, a columnist for the Bergen (N.J.) Record, is a regular contributor to He can be reached at

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