| ||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
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.
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
"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 ESPN.com. He can be reached at NJCOL1@aol.com.
|Jerry Tarkanian's willingness to recruit Lloyd Daniels while at UNLV ultimately led to his departure from the desert.|| |
Trouble in Vegas: Rebels get probation; Bayno fired
Katz: Good brings discipline to UNLV's bad situation
MWC bans UNLV from playing, hosting conference tournament
ESPN's Jay Bilas and Andy Katz analyze the firing of UNLV coach Bill Bayno.
avi: 4500 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1
ESPN.com's Andy Katz looks at what lies ahead for the UNLV basketball program.
wav: 378 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6
President Carol Harter announces UNLV's decision to terminate basketball coach Bill Bayno.
wav: 205 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6