Academy Award winner is writing script for movie about UNLV’s Coach Tarkanian, his son says

By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

An Academy Award-winning screenwriter and producer is finishing up a script for a feature-length film on legendary UNLV basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian, his son Danny said on Nevada Newsmakers.

Shawn Christensen, who won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for his 2012 film “Curfew,” will meet with the Tarkanian family soon to go over the script, Danny Tarkanian said Thursday.

“He has spent over a year writing the script,” Tarkanian said of Christensen. “He is just finishing it now. He is coming to Las Vegas in a couple of weeks to show to it my mother and the rest of our family.”


Tarkanian feels good about getting the project completed.

“I do know that the script has been written,” he said. “CAA (Creative Artists Agency) is going to promote it. He (Christensen) works for CAA and they are one of the biggest agencies in Hollywood and they think this is a really good script. They are excited about it and so am I.”

Coach Tarkanian won the NCAA national championship at UNLV in 1990 and enjoyed a career that spanned five decades and 31 season at three schools.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

Yet the film will not be a standard biography on the coach.

Instead, it is a story about “the transformation of Las Vegas” while Coach Tarkanian took his Runnin’ Rebels to national acclaim at UNLV from 1973 to 1992, his son said.

“When he (Coach Tarkanian) first came (to Las Vegas), it was run by a few select individuals — ‘Wildcat’ Morris and those guys,” his son said. “They are the ones who basically hired my dad. But at the end it became a corporate town and everything changed. My dad’s time was past.

It is too early to speculate on who would play the part of the famous coach, his son said.

“He (Christensen) has got some people that he is talking about who are really big but I don’t want to even mention names,” Danny Tarkanian said.

Coach Tarkanian died in 2015 and is considered one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time.

Yet he had a running feud with the NCAA and late in his career at UNLV, powerful members of the UNLV administration soured on him.

Tarkanian, however, ended up defeating the NCAA, winning a $2.5 million settlement in 1998 after suing the organization for trying to ruin his coaching career..

The NCAA ignored rule-breaking at major universities while pursuing smaller, defenseless schools that were trying to climb in national stature, Coach Tarkanian said early in his career, while coaching at Long Beach State.

Danny Tarkanian played at UNLV for his father from 1981 to 1984. He originally was expected to attend the University of Nevada to play football for Coach Chris Ault out of Bishop Gorman High School, where he was the All-State quarterback on the Gaels’ state-championship team.

Danny Tarkanian was the captain and starting point guard at UNLV. The Rebels won 24 consecutive games and were ranked No. 1 in the nation during his sophomore year. He is currently a Republican candidate for Nevada’s 3rd U.S. House District.

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