Posts Tagged ‘University of Memphis’

March Madness and the Story of a Basketball Player Who United a City

March 19, 2017

1973_ncaa_semifinal_3531203_ver1.0_640_480

Here we are, in the middle of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament., that time of year, which has been dubbed “March Madness”.

This time of year, I always think about a man who made a difference in my life and that of many others.

HIs name was Larry O. Finch.

You may or may not have heard of him.

The following is a post which I wrote 6 years ago, upon hearing of his death in 2011.

I am reposting this because, in this age of superficial spoiled brat professional athletes, it  is a story about a man whose life was not only filled with a love of the game, but with love for his fellow man.

And, it being a Sabbath Morning, there is no better time to relate this story.

The year is 1972.  A skinny, undersized asthmatic kid, new to Wooddale Junior High, is about to be annihilated in a game called Bombardment, a rather sadistic game thought up by the 9th grade P.E. coach for his personal amusement.  Resembling the movie “Dodgeball” on steroids,  two teams (usually the delinquents on one side and their victims on the other), would line up against both sides of the bleachers waiting for the coach’s whistle.  Then the massacre would ensue.

Sure that I was about to breathe my last, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a kind voice telling me to stand beside him.  I looked up to see the smiling face of Larry Finch, Senior shooting guard on the Memphis State University Tigers Basketball Team.  He had just taken an Internship at my school!

Of course, that was the year that they lost the NCAA Championship to Bill Walton and the UCLA Bruins.  I don’t think that anyone in the nation hollered at their television set louder that night than I did.

Over the semester, we became friends.  I became a Tiger fan for life, eventually receiving my degree there  in 1980 in Radio, TV, and Film.  While there, I had the privilege of calling radio play-by-play for the Women’s Basketball and Men’s Baseball teams.

Larry is also the reason that I went on to play and coach basketball, a 4th grade team and a church team, respectively.  My coaching record is 25 – 4.

But, I digress…

Anyway, I’m writing this story because my friend, the Memphis Legend, Coach Larry O. Finch, has passed away at the age of 60.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Finch, the University of Memphis’ winningest basketball coach with 220 victories, had been in poor health since suffering the first of multiple strokes in 2001. He was 60. He had also had a heart attack.

Finch is perhaps the most beloved figure in the history of Memphis’ basketball program, leading the 1973 team to the national championship game and coaching the Tigers from 1986 to 1997.

Larry was born in the Orange Mound section of Memphis and went on to play for Melrose High School.  He and his fellow high school teammate, 6’9″  “Big Cat” Ronnie  Robinson, decided to play for Coach Gene Bartow at Memphis State University.

This was during the height of racial unrest in Memphis.  Larry had been advised not to go to Memphis State, but he loved his hometown and his hometown university.  He and Ronnie turned out to be 2 of the finest bridge builders Memphis has ever seen.  He graduated as the all-time leading scorer in school history and is presently still in second place on that list.

Larry went on to play professionally with the Memphis TAMs, the Memphis Sounds, the Baltimore Hustlers, and the Baltimore Claws.

Per biographicon.com:

In the 1980s, Finch was an assistant coach for Dana Kirk at Memphis State. Kirk was forced to leave Memphis State after violating NCAA regulations, and Finch was made head coach in 1986 in order to restore order to the program. Finch was head coach from 1986 until 1997.

Finch’s tenure at Memphis State/University of Memphis was successful. He posted 10 out of 11 winning seasons, and seven 20+ win seasons. He recruited and developed such players as Elliot Perry, Penny Hardaway, and Lorenzen Wright. His 1991-92 team led by Hardaway and David Vaughn went to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.

As a player, Finch was known for his shooting prowess, and his skills remained intact throughout his coaching days; he would routinely win games of H-O-R-S-E against his players (including the great Keith Lee, among others) and against assistant coaches in long distance shooting contests after road game practices.

In the company of such renowned coaches as Gene Bartow and John Calipari, Larry Finch remains in second-place for all-time wins in University of Memphis history (behind only Calipari).

In 2002, Larry suffered a stroke, which left him paralyzed and affected his speech.  Later that year, at halftime of the Memphis Grizzlies’ annual Martin Luther King Day game, NBA Legend Bill Russell grabbed the handles of Larry Finch’s wheelchair and wheeled him across a spotlight-lit basketball court.

The entire arena cheered and cried at the same time.

And now, this Memphis Legend is gone.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, how can you consider yourself a friend of Larry Finch?  You only knew him for a short time.

In the early 80s, while Larry was an Assistant Coach under Dana Kirk, I was working at Memphis Cablevision.  I was passing through a front office packed with customers, there to pay their bill.  All of the sudden, I heard a familiar voice shouting my last name at the top of his lungs.  It was Coach Finch!

He grinned that big ol’ grin at me, and hugged me until I thought my ribs would bust.  Then he asked me how I was doing, eager to hear about my life, and we talked as if there was no one else in that lobby.

And now, almost 30 years later, I’m sitting here, trying to write this post with tears in my eyes.

That’s how I know.

Until He Comes,

KJ

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Obama Lays an Egg

April 2, 2013

obamabasketballYesterday, the White House held its annual Easter Egg Roll.

Among the “attractions” at this year’s photo op were the Easter Bunny, the First Dog Bo, (Which is what the other set of grandparents call my 5 year old grandson, Robert. Hey, it’s a Mississippi thang.) there were also characters by the name of Colby Carrot and Erica Eggplant.

What do vegetables have to do Easter? Were they there for the Easter Bunny’s lunch?

No. Actually they were there for Mooch’s (First Lady Michelle Obama) benefit. This woman (who takes 2 trips to haul you-know-what) urged the kiddies to have fun and “run around,” and “to learn something about nutrition and exercise”.

In fact, the theme of this year’s Egg Roll had nothing to do at all with Easter. It was

Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!

Mooch told the children,

We want you guys to have a good time and keep moving and be healthy. And, kids, eat your vegetables, okay?

Over 30,000 attended the choreographed event. Among those attending, were relatives of some of the children who were murdered by a psychopath during the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The White House did not provide names, citing privacy concerns.

Chicagoyouthriot4113How…noble? Hardly.

Obama continues to use the Newtown Tragedy as a Political Opportunity to take away the guns from average-American citizens. Of course, no mention has been made by Obama and his minions concerning the hundred of youths who rioted in the streets of Chicago on Saturday.

“This was a planned attack,” community activist Andrew Holmes told ABC Chicago. “You had these many people down here and that many people just running from one side of the street, jumping on people on the east side, then they come back on the west side and jump on the people.”

More than two dozen teens were arrested during the chaotic melee.

“You have over 300 to 400 teenagers with mob action, jumping on individuals that are downtown,” community activist Andrew Holmes told NBC Chicago.

Police booked 25 juveniles and three adults on misdemeanor reckless conduct and battery charges for purposefully knocking into and jumping on pedestrians during the “mob action.”

At around 6 p.m., hundreds of misbehaved teenagers swarmed in on the Windy City’s Magnificent Mile shopping district that runs along Michigan Avenue, near Chicago Avenue.

“You have over 300 to 400 teenagers with mob action, jumping on individuals that are downtown,” Holmes, who was in the area shopping with family, told NBC Chicago. He said he also witnessed a mounted police officer being assaulted by the teens.

Obama would tell you,

It’s not the yutes’ fault. It’s those darn guns, I tell you.

That is, if he had the guts to bring it up in the first place. But, I digress…

A featured attraction at the Easter Egg Roll, was supposed to be the thrill of watching The Lightbringer display his basketball prowess, by shooting hoops at a basketball goal which his minions had set up on the White House Lawn.

Unfortunately, for the Manchurian President…hilarity ensued.

POTUS stepped to free throw line and kids were asked to stand on opposite sides, depending on whether they think he would sink it. Most kids moved in one direction, but one boy went to the “miss” side.”Oh, man,” a stunned POTUS said, hands on hips. The boy didn’t budge. And three others joined.In sharp form, POTUS released the ball. It bounced off the rim and circled it — miss.”Come on. Come on. Did you see that?” Obama said.It got worse.A little while later, after playing tennis, Obama started to take shots amid the kids and pros. Miss. Miss. Off the rim. Miss. Miss. Off the rim. Airball. He moved closer to the net.But time and again, he missed. Of 22 shots POTUS took, he made two. (22 was general consensus of poolers)At one point, POTUS handed a ball to a boy and asked for help. The boy made the layup.”He couldn’t make one. I had to help him out,” said Kahron Campbell, 10, of Landover, MD.

Being a product of a Memphis upbringing, basketball runs through my veins. It all started in elementary, when I played on a team, then in ninth grade, when the legendary University of Memphis player, Larry Finch, became my student coach the year they lost the National Championship to Bill Walton and UCLA (’72-’73). I later went on to coach my own forth grade squad, while in college at the U of M, and , later, at 36, I coached and played for my church team. My record as a coach is 25-4, with 2 league championships.

Basketball is a metaphor for any tasks you might attempt in life. 

One of the things you learn in basketball, is that…

If the plays aren’t working, you must re-adjust the game plan. 

Every great basketball player knows that when your plays aren’t working you have to adjust, and then adjust some more. The varying strengths and styles of different opponents require different tactics. You have to be able to withstand and adjust to whichever attacks an opponent uses on you.

Just like the game of basketball, life presents us with many challenges for which we must adjust our game plan.

And, just as Obama failed miserably, in his attempt to show off his skills as a basketball player, so has he failed miserably during his tenure as the President of the United States.

He has gained a reputation as being the most -out-of-touch, narcissistic, socialist, prevaricating, petulant President this nation has yet to endure.

Perhaps it is time to Obama to change his game plan.

Until He Comes,

KJ