Although Jerry Tarkanian, former Nevada Las Vegas basketball coach, testified Monday that he repeatedly warned UNLV players to avoid associating with convicted sports fixer Richard Perry, new information obtained by The Times indicates that some of Tarkanian’s players had stronger ties to Perry than has previously been reported.
Photographs obtained by The Times show that four former Rebel players, including star guard Anderson Hunt, were friendly enough with Perry that their names were painted on the private basketball court at Perry’s Las Vegas home.
In the case of Hunt, a starter on the Rebels’ 1990 and ’91 Final Four teams, the photos indicate that his name was painted on the court at least a year after Tarkanian publicly warned Rebel players to stay away from Perry. Hunt, in an interview with The Times, said he was there when the names were painted on the court.
Perry, a Las Vegas resident who also spends time in New York coaching summer league basketball, has twice been convicted on sports bribery charges, including a conviction stemming from his role in the Boston College basketball point-shaving scandal of the early 1980s.
Photos published last year in the Las Vegas Review-Journal showing Hunt and two other former Rebel players, Moses Scurry and David Butler, socializing with Perry led Tarkanian to announce that the 1991-92 season would be his last at UNLV.
Tarkanian, now coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, later claimed that UNLV President Robert Maxson and other university officials had conspired to discredit the Rebels’ basketball program. Maxson has denied the charge.
Tarkanian’s exit from UNLV remains such a volatile subject in Las Vegas that a commission of Nevada state legislators has initiated an inquiry into the coach’s resignation as well as other university-related matters.
Testifying before the 12-member commission Monday in Las Vegas as the panel’s leadoff witness, Tarkanian reiterated his claim that he told his players to stay away from Perry shortly after a Time magazine story in April of 1989 revealed Perry’s background and linked him to several UNLV players.
“When we found out, I told the team on several occasions to stay away from him,” Tarkanian told the commission. “I told (the players), ‘The perception will be damaging to you and damaging to the program.’ ”
The appearance of the former Rebel players’ names on the court at Perry’s home, however, is an indication of the depth of the relationship between the convicted sports fixer and the UNLV basketball program in more recent years.
Hunt’s name, as it appears on Perry’s court, includes the notation “MVP 1990,” an apparent reference to Hunt being voted the most valuable player of the 1990 Final Four in Denver. Hunt scored 20 points against Georgia Tech and 29 against Duke as UNLV won the national championship that year.
The “MVP 1990" notation is significant because it indicates that Hunt’s association with Perry went on for at least a year after Tarkanian announced at a news conference in April, 1989, that his players would no longer be allowed to associate with Perry.
The photos of Hunt, Scurry and Butler socializing with Perry that appeared in the Review-Journal reportedly were taken in the fall of 1989. The photos show the three players soaking with Perry in his hot tub and playing basketball with him on his back-yard court. No names are visible in the photo of the court that appeared in the Review-Journal.
In addition to Hunt’s name, the names of Scurry and Butler appear on Perry’s court in the photos obtained by The Times. The fourth name on the court is that of Barry Young, a former UNLV player who has not previously been linked to Perry.
Scurry and Butler completed their eligibility at UNLV during the 1989-90 season. Young was a junior in 1989-90, but did not return for his senior season because of academic difficulties.
The players’ names appear to have been written in large letters on the court with paint.
Hunt said he did not put his name on Perry’s court, but recalled being at Perry’s home when other UNLV players were doing so. He said he assumes one of the other players signed his name on the court at that time.
“A few of the players were doing it, and I was (thinking) like, you know, ‘I’m going to have to go sit in the hot tub or something,’ ” he said.
Hunt, who played professionally in France last season and is currently attempting to make the roster of the Chicago Bulls as a free agent, said he saw no problem in associating with Perry.
“He was harmless to me,” Hunt said. “Every time somebody says something about (the players’ relationship with Perry), I laugh it off.”
Hunt described Perry as “just good people” and rejected the notion that Perry could have sought influence with the players for gambling purposes.
“We were grown young men,” Hunt said. “Nobody could persuade us to do something we didn’t want to do.”
Identified in published reports as “Sam Perry,” a commodities broker, Perry was first linked to the UNLV basketball program through his role in the school’s recruiting of former New York high school star Lloyd Daniels in 1986 and ’87.
Charges that Perry acted improperly as a representative of the university’s interests in providing Daniels with cash and other benefits are among the alleged rules violations in a pending NCAA infractions case against UNLV.
Daniels, who was dropped from the UNLV program after his arrest on drug charges in Las Vegas in February of 1987, recently signed a contract to play this season for Tarkanian’s Spurs.
In his testimony before the legislative commission Monday, Tarkanian repeated his contention that he knew Perry only as “Sam Perry” during the recruiting of Daniels and only learned Perry’s true identity through the Time magazine article.
The photographs showing the players’ names on Perry’s court were obtained by The Times from Lamont Sudbury of Las Vegas. Sudbury, an architectural designer, came forward in July to acknowledge that he provided the Review-Journal with the photos showing Hunt, Scurry and Butler socializing with Perry.
Sudbury said he discovered the negatives for those photos among a batch of photos he took of a driveway he designed for Perry’s home. According to Sudbury, the negatives apparently were inadvertently placed in an envelope with the driveway photos by Perry’s wife at the time, Joanne Perry, who had borrowed the driveway photos to show other contractors working on the house.
The Review-Journal said it paid Sudbury $800 for the photos of the players and Perry.
Denying that he is part of a conspiracy to discredit Tarkanian, as has been charged by the coach’s supporters, Sudbury said he provided the photos to the Review-Journal simply to call attention to the inherent danger in UNLV players associating with a convicted sports fixer.
Sudbury took the photos showing the players’ names on Perry’s court and provided them to The Times as a means of giving further credence to his view.
“Everybody has this big scenario, with Maxson, the university, involved,” Sudbury said. “Well, that just clouds the issue.
“Perry’s the issue. Perry’s the problem. And I show a picture of that, and everybody ignores it.”
The Times paid Sudbury $300 for the photos of the players’ names on Perry’s court, the paper’s standard rate for free-lance photography work.
Tarkanian told the legislative commission he was on the verge of creating a college basketball dynasty “close to matching the UCLA dynasty” when his program was “dismantled” by Maxson and other school officials.
Maxson, who is scheduled to appear before the commission on Oct. 19, told the Associated Press Monday that Tarkanian’s view is “totally ridiculous.”