Thursday, April 28, 2011

TTT Answer

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 8:00 AM

The VCU Rams beat teams from five of college basketball's six power conferences on their way to the 2011 Final Four.

When was the most recent Tiger victory over a member from each of the power conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac 10, SEC)?

ACC: March 21, 2009 (Maryland, in the NCAA tournament)
Big 10: March 28, 2008 (Michigan State, in the NCAA tournament)
Big 12: March 30, 2008 (Texas, in the NCAA tournament)
Big East: March 17, 2010 (St. John's, in the NIT)
Pac 10: April 5, 2008 (UCLA, national semifinals)
SEC: November 21, 2010 (LSU)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tiger Trivia Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Apr 26, 2011 at 8:00 AM

The VCU Rams beat teams from five of college basketball's six power conferences on their way to the 2011 Final Four.

Cinderella in Rams clothing.
  • Cinderella in Rams' clothing.

When was the most recent Tiger victory over a member from each of the power conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac 10, SEC)?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TTT Answer

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 8:00 AM

How many times has a Tiger football player rushed for 200 yards in a game?

15 times. The first was Dave Casinelli, with 210 against Houston on November 30, 1963. The most recent was Curtis Steele, with 232 against Tulsa on November 27, 2009.

Among these, how many times did DeAngelo Williams achieve the feat?

Nine times. His career high — and the U of M record — was 263 at South Florida on November 27, 2004.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tiger Trivia Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 8:00 AM

We're going with another two-parter this week.

How many times has a Tiger football player rushed for 200 yards in a game?

DeAngelo Williams

Among these, how many times did DeAngelo Williams achieve the feat?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

TTT Answer

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Larry Finch holds the U of M record for points scored in a game with 48 (January 20, 1973, against St. Joseph's at the Mid-South Coliseum).

1) Who was the last Tiger to score 40 points in a game?

Marcus Moody scored 41 at Oklahoma on December 13, 1997. Moody was a freshman, and this was just the fourth game since Tic Price succeeded Finch as Tiger head coach.

2) What was Elliot Perry's career high?

Perry scored 42 points against East Tennessee at the Mid-South Coliseum on January 30, 1991. The Tigers actually lost the game, 105-102, in overtime.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Q & A: Larry Porter

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Having endured a 1-11 season as a rookie head coach in 2010, Larry Porter sees only one direction for his Tiger football team. Over the course of spring practice, he’s recognized some signs that his squad will indeed take strides in 2011. With the Blue-Gray Game just three days away (Saturday, 1 p.m., Liberty Bowl), Porter shared some thoughts and views on offseason progress.

With a season under your belt, have you approached spring practice differently than you did a year ago?
I think you have to, because you have a better feel for you team. So you can truly point at those things you need to improve upon.

Entering spring drills, what did you consider among your top priorities for building the 2011 team?
Defensively, we wanted to improve tackling and improve third-down defense. That was critical. We wanted to become a more cohesive unit. There were so many injuries last year, especially in the secondary. There just wasn’t any continuity back there. We wanted to establish some continuity with depth.

Offensively, putting in a new [spread] system, I wanted to cut down on the mental mistakes. We need to have more attention to detail, more discipline. And not just establish who our playmakers are, but find ways to get them the ball.

Larry Porter

Last year’s starting quarterback, Ryan Williams, has left the program.
You’ve had Andy Summerlin taking the most snaps this spring, with Will Gilchrist backing up and a pair of newcomers — Domonique Harris and Taylor Reed — on the way. Will the quarterback position be wide open for competition in August?

I’ll tell you this: we’re not in a position right now to name a starting quarterback. If you look at the two guys we have in the program right now, Andy is more productive back there. He’s performing very well right now. Will he have a lead coming out of spring? I’d say yes.

In moving to more of a spread attack, are there specific skills you’ll be looking for among your quarterbacks?
There are three critical things you must see from a quarterback, no matter the system. One, they need to manage the offense. Two, their decision-making must be above average. And three, the overall productivity has to be such that it puts our offense in a position to be productive as well.

How has the offensive line looked (with only one starter, Ron Leary, back)?
I love our offensive line. We’re not where we need to be at this point, but I love it, because right now, in terms of chemistry and continuity, we’re better than we were at any point last year. From a technical and fundamental standpoint, we’re still building and putting it together. I love the progress we’ve made thus far.

We’re more than happy with Ron Leary’s productivity and leadership, with him being an anchor for our offensive line. But then you have a guy like [junior transfer] Jordan Devey who has done everything we’ve asked him to do. You have D’Angelo McCray, who has made the transition from defense to offense, and he’s been improving. You’ve got a young [redshirt freshman] Al Bond playing the center position. He’s had some growing pains, but he’s gotten better. Every single day he gets to practice against [nose tackles] Dontari Poe and Johnnie Farms. That will only make him better.

Who do you see as the leaders on the defensive side of the ball?
Poe, [defensive tackle] Frank Trotter, [safety] Akeem Davis. The leadership on that side of the ball is a lot stronger than on the offensive side of the ball.

What makes you feel the defense is a leadership well for this team?
First and foremost, you want to lead by example, with productivity. Then there’s the willingness to grab other teammates by the throat and get them going. The energy level, as a whole, is a night-and-day difference. The spirit of practice has been excellent.

A 1-11 season is hard to endure. Is there anything positive you can build upon from your first year as head coach?
School started January 14th. On the first day of classes, we had over 20 guys in the weight room, lifting. Unsolicited. Voluntary. That spoke volumes to me about their attitude, and their intentions of becoming a better football team. That work ethic, that spirit of “let’s get better” has been there the entire spring.

If there’s one element that must change for your team to see improvement next fall, what would it be?
It’s leadership. Our guys have to take ownership of this team. We’ve been focused on that in a lot of different ways. Guys have stepped up, and they’re holding each other accountable. They’re not afraid to get on each other, or to encourage each other. I knew it was different when we met as a team, and we’d bring it together at the end, and guys would say things like “family” and “team.” They’re starting to get it. It’s still a work in progress, but we’re light years ahead of where we were. You have to bring that to life in your program, a sense of accountability.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tiger Trivia Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 8:00 AM

We're going to start trivia season with a two-parter.

One photo . . . 4,078 points.
  • One photo . . . 4,078 points.

Larry Finch holds the U of M record for points scored in a game with 48 (January 20, 1973, against St. Joseph's at the Mid-South Coliseum).

1) Who was the last Tiger to score 40 points in a game?

2) What was Elliot Perry's career high?

Check back Thursday morning for the answers.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Night for Larry Finch

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 9:51 PM

Saddest Friday night I can remember.

I attended the wake for Larry Finch early this evening, a gathering held in the building on the University of Memphis campus named in the Tiger legend's honor. Walls adorned with larger-than-life photos of Tiger greats during their NBA days — from Larry Kenon to Derrick Rose — stood in contrast to the open casket at center court, a blue casket that will serve as the final resting place for the greatest Tiger of them all. It looked small, that casket, considering the legend it held.

Larry Finch in the 1973 NCAA championship
  • Larry Finch in the 1973 NCAA championship

The night reminded me of another emotionally charged goodbye, one far less permanent. On March 1, 1997, my wife and I went to The Pyramid for the last game Larry Finch would coach in Memphis. The infamous terms of his departure — finalized, as the story goes, on the arena's concourse — had been publicized for days. The Tigers entered the game — Senior Day for Cedric Henderson and Chris Garner — with a mediocre record of 15-13. They were hosting one of their arch-rivals, Cincinnati, a team ranked 9th in the country and featuring the menacing Danny Fortson, a first-team All-America.

The Bearcats never stood a chance. Memphis led start to finish and won the game, 75-63. Finch received a thunderous standing ovation before the game, and another — with some tears in the mix — after the final buzzer. That game was 14 years ago, but the passage of time seems much longer tonight.

I spoke briefly with Leonard Draper on my way out. Told Finch's longtime friend how the coach somehow made Memphis seem friendlier when I moved here from New England in 1991. Penny Hardaway greeted friends wearing a blue t-shirt with a photo of Finch that said "My Mentor."

As my wife and I left the Finch Center, we heard the squeak of sneakers and the dribbling of basketballs in the adjacent student recreation center. And it sounded about right, the way Coach Finch would have liked it. Made me smile.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Larry Finch (1951-2011)

Posted By on Sat, Apr 2, 2011 at 5:04 PM

The greatest Tiger of them all has left us. Larry Finch, the star of the 1973 NCAA tournament runners-up and for 11 years the head coach of his alma mater, died at the age of 60 at St. Francis Hospital. The last decade of Finch's life was a battle. He suffered a series of strokes, beginning in 2001, and was wheelchair-bound by the time the 1973 team was honored at the Pyramid for the 30th anniversary of their run to the Final Four, where they fell to mighty UCLA.

Below is a column I wrote for Memphis magazine in March 2008. Hope it catches the right eye in the days ahead, when memories of Larry Finch will keep us strong as we endure his passing.


Our Larry Legend

March Madness it's called. The NCAA basketball tournament. With apologies to the Super Bowl, the three-week nationwide office-pool party that culminates with the Final Four (alas, in early April) is the most American of sporting events. What can be more Democratic than allowing an Ivy League school — or George Mason! — to compete for the same trophy that North Carolina, UCLA, and Kentucky have made their own?

With the Memphis Tigers among the top-ranked teams in the country, this may be the month we look back upon in reflecting on the greatest of so many great teams the U of M has suited up. But whether or not coach John Calipari's charges cut down the nets in San Antonio on April 7th, it's time to honor — again — the greatest Tiger there will ever be: Larry Finch.

Larry Finch (1951-2011)
  • Larry Finch (1951-2011)

For the few uninitiated Memphians — or perhaps those too young — here's a brief refresher. After starring at Melrose High School, Finch rose to fame at what was then Memphis State University. Playing for coach Gene Bartow and alongside Orange Mound chum Ronnie Robinson, Finch led the Tigers to the 1973 Final Four, where the mighty UCLA Bruins and Bill Walton ended a dream season in the national championship game. Finch hung up his sneakers as the most prolific scorer (1,869 points) in school history (his mark has since been surpassed by three players). Thirteen years later, Finch was named head coach of the Tigers and, over 11 years, won more games (220) than any other coach in the program's history. For a city that didn't see major league sports until the NBA's Grizzlies arrived in 2001, Larry Finch was the kind of sports star who attached his very face to the fortunes — win or lose — of his city. Think DiMaggio in New York. Unitas in Baltimore.

The Finch story isn't all roses, though. In 2002, he suffered a massive stroke, one that has left him confined to a wheelchair, weakened in both body and spirit for almost six years now. When his 1973 team gathered at The Pyramid for a 30th anniversary celebration, Finch shed tears — arm raised triumphantly, though — from his wheelchair at center court. It was one of the saddest "happy" images I've ever witnessed.

The next ceremony I'd like to see Finch attend is the unveiling of a statue, one that would anchor the plaza outside FedExForum, where the Tigers have enjoyed their most recent rush to greatness. The team already practices in the Larry O. Finch Center on the university campus, and that's a more than fitting tribute, but rather preaching to the converted, as Finch's presence is felt in almost any building with a Tiger logo. The next step in celebrating the life and achievements of an athlete who made Memphians of all ages, colors, and creeds cheer their lungs out is to cast him in bronze, in his prime, the famous number-21 pulling up for a jump shot that shone almost as brightly as the shooter's smile.

Who knows what the cost and logistics of commissioning such a piece would be? But I'm willing to bet the fund-raising maestros who keep Calipari in town might find some change in the couch to give FedExForum — and the city of Memphis — a crown jewel for what amounts to the center of the Mid-South basketball universe. And let's do it now. Life is all too short.

Among my most treasured photos is a shot of myself with Coach Finch on Halloween night in 1992. The Tiger basketball team hosted fans for a teamwide autograph session at the Elma Roane Field House. Penny Hardaway was the most popular attraction, about to begin his junior (and final) season as a Tiger. The players each had a seat at long tables that surrounded the basketball court, fans standing in line with posters for each of their favorites to sign, maybe even personalize.

Larry Finch didn't sit at a table. He wandered through the adoring crowd, shaking hands, sharing stories, listening to how very much Tiger fans loved him, and how this was the year the Memphis State Tigers would go all the way. I didn't have a poster or pen in hand, but I had my camera. And Coach Finch was kind enough to pose with me: a 23-year-old aspiring journalist (and former basketball player, mind you) alongside a veritable civic institution. Merely a snapshot in time, but Larry Finch made me feel right at home.

I want to be the first to pose next to his statue.

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