Jerry Tarkanian was livid. He had just learned that news about a secret meeting between the NCAA and Nevada-Las Vegas Sunday to discuss alleged rule violations by the Rebels had leaked out.
"It was supposed to be confidential," Tarkanian sputtered, trying to control his temper. "We weren't supposed to discuss it and they weren't supposed to discuss it.
"I'm going to hold up my end of the bargain. I'm not saying a word about it, not a word. I don't want to discuss it. Here I am worried about a basketball game and now this comes up."
The game he is worried about is Thursday night's NCAA West Regional semifinal clash with Utah, a team that handled the Rebels one of their two losses this year. He is worried about how the Rocky Mountain altitude will affect his team and he is worried about UCLA, which meets Idaho State in the other semifinal. The altitude in Provo is 4,500 feet, in Las Vegas it is 2,000.
And now he had to worry about how this latest NCAA report would affect his players.
It was officially announced last year that the NCAA was conducting a formal investigation of the Las Vegas program. The school received a chance to reply to the charges in November and again in December.
Sources close to both the NCAA and Las Vegas told The Washington Post that this latest meeting was requested by Tarkanian and the school in order to introduce new evidence to counter the charges.
Those sources said that the original NCAA indictment sheet listed 72 violations, more than half of which were allegedly committed by Tarkanian's predecessor, John Bayer.
With help from the office of the Nevada attorney general, Las Veges accummulated a huge amount of material in answer to the NCAA. The material, one source said, weighed "900 pounds by the time they finished. That's why they had to meet in November and December. They couldn't get through all of it the first meeting."
Many officials at the school apparently have decided that the NCAA eventually will put the Rebels on probation, but no one is sure when the final decision and announcement will come. But they are also convinced that the sentence will be more a matter of the NCAA lashing out at Tarkanian than at Las Vegas.
Tarkanian previously coached at Long Beach State, which just ended a three-year probation due to rule violations by both Tarkanian and the school's former football staff. Tarkanian long has felt the NCAA is out to get him and will investigate him wherever he takes a job.
Tarkanian said today that he would not mention this latest meeting to his team. "They've heard enough of this," he said. "It's nothing new. This has been going on for months now."
Instead, he said he is going to try to block out everything but the game and worry about the NCAA after the season.
Utah has enough talent to be a legitimate concern for him, especially since the Utes are used to the altitude and Las Vegas is not. When Utah won, 110-96, in December, the game was played on its home court.
"For 30 minutes, we played like we were dead and got behind 21 points," said Tarkanian. "We came back on pride alone, and we had a chance to win it in the final minute. But we need to run to play well and it's hard to run up here."
Anyone doubting the affect of the altitude needs only to try to walk quickly up a flight of stairs. It takes only that much of an excursion to lose your breath.
And the Rebels must climb the equivalent of 1,000 stairs during a game. They fast-break at every opportunity and fire up shots just as quickly.
Utah will run with them, but the Utes also are smart enough not to take many bad shots, a fault of many of Las Vegas' opponents. Utah's [WORD ILLEGIBLE] selection is so good that it makes 54 per cent of its tries, second best in the nation and best ever in the school's history.
In the first meeting, Utah hit more than 60 per cent in the first 30 minutes while Las Vegas was under 40 per cent. And Utah guard Jeff Jones a Milwaukee product who got away from Al McGuire, "must have had [WORD ILLEGIBLE] assists," said Tarkanian.
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] and leading scorer Jeff [WORD ILLEGIBLE] points a game) must play well for Utah to have a chance. At least [WORD ILLEGIBLE] according to coach Jerry [WORD ILLEGIBLE] "know that Vegas is not [WORD ILLEGIBLE] If we hadn't beaten them [WORD ILLEGIBLE] we'd scared to death after [WORD ILLEGIBLE] how they murdered San Francisco. It was frightening."
UCLA coach Bartow also hopes the UCLA players profited by watching Idaho State beat Long Beach State last week in Pocatello, Idaho.
"The game should have convinced us that Idaho State is no pushover," said Bartow. "They were big enough and quick enough to give us problems."
Idaho State starts a huge team of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Steve Hayes, 6-10 Jeff Cook, 6-7 [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Griffin, 6-5 Scott Goold and 6-3 Ed Thompson. The Bengals have decent quickness and a dominating talent in Hayes, who has averaged 20 points a game during his career.
"This is a darn good team," said Washington State coach George Raveling, who saw Idaho State play during the regular season. "Just because no one ever heard of them, everyone thinks they can't be good. UCLA better not."
Bartow has worries of his own - Marques Johnson's bad tooth and the altitude. He saw how badly the tooth affected Johnson and how the altitude affected his team against Louisville Saturday.
"Let's put it this way," said Bartow, Marques has to have a good game and we have to handle the altitude better to win. It comes down to that."