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The Other Tarkanian : Myron Teaches Tennis and Never Chews a Towel

May 14, 1987|IRENE GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

"What? You're doing a story on Myron!

"Myron! Are you sure you got the right Tarkanian?"

That was how Myron Tarkanian's wife, Anna, reacted when she learned that an article on her husband would appear in the newspaper.

The Tarkanians are accustomed to reading about Myron's older brother, Jerry, and his success as coach of one of the top college basketball teams, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

While Jerry is under constant pressure, Myron has a far easier life in Pasadena even though he too is a college coach.

At Pasadena City College, where Myron is the men's tennis coach, he kicks back during matches rather than chew on towels as Jerry does while his Rebels are in action.

"There's not another job in the country that would make me happier," Myron said. "It's a great job and I'm in the town that I grew up, which is even better."

He's calm when it comes to the Lancer netters but not when it comes to the UNLV hoopsters. The only stress Myron undergoes is when he watches his brother's team play.

"He can't stand the games," Jerry said. "He gets as nervous as I do."

"I tell him to go into the other room when he's watching them," said Anna, a fitness instructor at PCC. "He gets sucked up in all those UNLV games."

Having a famous brother doesn't bother the junior college tennis coach. There is no jealousy between them and Myron is offended when his brother gets bad press.

"The majority of the articles always bring up a sinister side to him," Myron said.

"He turns things around and makes them such a success like he did at Long Beach, for example, and the press makes him sound immoral.

"If you look at UCLA or North Carolina you know coaches will have success because of established program. But if Jerry were to leave Vegas, within two or three years they'd be unheard of again. That's the kind of difference he makes."

Jerry has made a difference in several college basketball programs, including PCC, Riverside City College and Cal State Long Beach, not to mention UNLV.

He received a lot of publicity through the years while Myron was an assistant football coach at a junior college and was known as "Jerry Tarkanian's brother."

Neither bothered him.

"The amount of press coverage he's gotten he absolutely deserves," Myron said. "He took teams that had no vision of national prominence and made them big. That deserves publicity."

The Tarkanians were born in Ohio but moved to Southern California when Myron was 4 and Jerry was 14. They grew up in Pasadena and attended Pasadena High School.

Both were involved in athletics from their days as Bulldogs at PHS--Jerry through basketball and Myron through football. Different sports and a 10-year age gap never interfered in the brothers' close relationship.

"He was always a role model and a father image for me," Myron said. "He had a lot to do with my discipline and even picked out a college for me."

At his brother's request, Myron attended the University of Redlands and played football for four years.

The 6-2, 215-pound lineman wasn't recruited to play pro so turned to coaching.

He was an assistant football coach for one season at the University of Hawaii before becoming an assistant in 1968 at PCC, one of the strongest junior college football programs in the state. He did that until 1975.

"I liked coaching football," Myron said. "In fact, I loved it, but there was a lot of stress. Even after it was over, I just couldn't forget the game and it got out of hand."

His blood pressure was dangerously high and he gained a considerable amount of weight. He concluded that if he didn't change his profession, he wasn't going to be around much longer.

"It was destroying him," Jerry said. "The best thing that happened to him was getting out of football. In doing that, he did a great thing and now he's happy."

Myron trimmed his 6-2, 235-pound frame to 185 with a strict diet and exercise. He became a new man with a new job and a happier life.

"Tennis is great. It's not as rigorous or time-consuming," Myron said. "I was very fortunate to have fallen into it."

The 47-year-old had no tennis background, but when the job opened up in 1975 he took it for the much needed change in his career and because his daughters played junior tennis.

"I've always enjoyed working in athletics and love being around kids," Myron said. "This sport has helped me get closer with my daughters. They actually were the ones who taught me to love it."

Since Myron took over 12 years ago, the Lancers have placed no lower than fourth in the Metro League. This is their first year in the newly formed South Coast Conference with El Camino, Long Beach, Mt. SAC, Fullerton, Cerritos and Bolden.

Led by their easy-going and pressure-free coach, the Lancers hold a 9-3 record.

"Tark is a real mellow guy and doesn't stress winning as much as some coaches," said freshman netter David Young. "He's satisfied with his job and we can tell."

That he is. In fact, sometimes he can't believe that he doesn't miss football the least bit and loves tennis.

"I just have to pinch myself sometimes," he said. "I can't believe how lucky I am to have this job."

So while Jerry sweats out seasons in the gym watching his Rebels sprint between hoops, Myron's only cause of sweat will be the hot Southern California sun shining on him while he watches his netters battle it out on the tennis court.

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