Tark The Shark Let Black Mafia Family Bosses Into UNLV Running Rebels Hoops Practice, Sit Courtside At Games

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The Spurs Coyote dresses as a shark for new coach Jerry "Tark the Shark" Tarkanian's (right) welcoming reception at the Marriott Riverwalk on June 19, 1992.

September 27, 2021 – Legendary UNLV head mens basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian allowed Black Mafia Family founders Demetrius (Big Meech) Flenory and Terry (Southwest T) Flenory attend practices and sit center court at games during the days his Running Rebels were the best in the nation in the early 1990s, per newly-released DEA documents. Tarkanian died in 2016 of a heart condition at age 84 and had his tenure as coach at UNLV come to an end due constant hounding by the NCAA for his shady behavior and connections his team had to underworld figures and professional gamblers.

The Flenory brothers were friends with Anderson Hunt, Tarkanian’s starting shooting guard on the Running Rebels’ 1990 National Championship squad. Hunt and the Flenorys all came from the same Southwest Detroit neighborhood, known for great basketball and big-time drug crews. Hunt attended then-perennial hoops juggernaut Detroit Southwestern High School, a program known for churning out former pros like Jalen Rose, Voshon Leonard and Howard Eisley.

Black Mafia Family began in Detroit and soon spread across the country until its dismantling as a result of 2005’s Operation Motor City Mafia bust. BMF became the largest domestic narcotics trafficking organization in U.S history and Big Meech Flenory, 52, the most iconic African-American criminal of the past half-century, alluded to often in the pop-culture zeitgeist surrounding the hip-hop music world. Flenory still has seven years remaining on his 30-year prison term. Southwest T, 50, walked free last year into home confinement.

A scripted Black Mafia Family television show, chronicling the rise and fall of the Flenorys just premiered on Starz. The BMF show is being written and produced by the same creative team behind the smash-hit fictional crime drama Power, the network’s signature brand which has already spawned a number of spinoffs and prequels.

Less than two months after No. 1 ranked UNLV was upset by Duke in the 1991 Final Four, the Las Vegas Review Journal printed photos of New York mob associate, Richard (Richie the Fixer) Perry, socializing in a hot tub and horsing around on his backyard basketball court with Running Rebel stars Anderson Hunt, David Butler and Moses Scurry. The story was accompanied by a scathing expose of his various contacts with the program.

The Fixer
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Richard “Richie the Fixer” Perry

Hunt and Butler were starters on UNLV’s National Championship club, with Hunt bringing home Final Four MVP honors. Scurry was the team’s popular sixth-man and knew Perry from Perry’s days coaching summer rec ball in New York. Barry Young, a reserve on the 1990 squad not pictured in the published images, was tied to Perry as well in the story by the LV Review Journal

The article and photos spawned another in a long line of NCAA investigations into Tarkanian-headed programs and eventually concluded in Tark the Shark’s heavily-pressured resignation from the job he had held for 19 seasons. He ended his career in 2005 coaching at Fresno State.

The 76-year old Perry, a native New Yorker and Lucchese crime family associate, had a vacation residence in Las Vegas that he purchased in 1986. FBI surveillance records cite Perry’s frequent socializing with members of the Running Rebels basketball team during his time in Vegas before he was “black booked” in the 1990s. He dined and club-hopped with them, per informants. He also lined their pockets with cash and entertained them at his home, featuring a customized full-court basketball floor in his backyard that had the names of Hunt, Butler, Scurry and Young emblemized on the baseline.

Anderson Hunt and Tarkanian
Anderson Hunt and Tarkanian

Testifying in front of the NCAA’s disciplinary committee, Tarkanian claimed that he repeatedly warned his players to steer clear of Perry because of the harm he could do to the program and their personal careers. Hunt left UNLV early, however, failed to generate himself a career in the NBA.

The man they called the “Fixer” got his nickname for obvious reasons: he was twice convicted for taking part in mob-backed sports fixes – first in 1973, related to manipulating the outcomes of harness races in New York and then in 1984, related to the Boston College men’s basketball point-shaving scandal (nine games altered in the 1978-79 season) orchestrated by the Lucchese mob and linked to Henry Hill and the “Goodfellas crew.”

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The Fixer’s hot tub party that crashed Tark the Shark’s reign atop his glitzy Las Vegas basketball kingdom

Tarkanian was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014. His career record was 706-198 and consisted of four Final Four appearances.

In the years after he was forced out at UNLV, Tarkanian sued the NCAA for what he described as a “witch-hunt vendetta” against him, accusing them of manufacturing evidence in a 20-year smear campaign. The suit was settled out of court and Tark the Shark was cut a check for 2.5 million dollars.

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