Welcoming The Big East Newcomers: Memphis Tigers

Posted by mlemaire on February 24th, 2012

After adding a flurry of new members in December, The Big East apparently wasn’t done. Recently Memphis announced they had accepted an invitation to become the Big East’s 12th member and join the conference in all sports in 2013. We rolled out the red carpet of analysis for the other three new members, so we will do the same for Memphis. As always, keep in mind, it is far too early to tell what sort of impact these teams will have in their new conference, but that won’t stop us from pontificating.

The Past

In a contest of basketball history with the other new members, no one can touch the Tigers. They also have a troubled history. Eugene Lambert led the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1955 and since then Memphis has played in 22 NCAA Tournaments, has gone to 11 Sweet Sixteens, six Elite Eights, two Final Fours, and two National Championship games. They have been the stomping grounds for great players like Larry Finch, Keith Lee, Elliot Perry, Anfernee Hardaway, Lorenzen Wright, and most recently, Derrick Rose.

Hey, Remember These Guys?

Of course it also true that a whole host of those appearances and wins have been vacated by the NCAA thanks to widespread rules violations. Everybody remembers the most recent snafu where John Calipari and the program dealt with infractions like providing travel money to Rose’s brother as well as playing Derrick Rose under suspicion of a fraudulent SAT score that caused the NCAA to remove its Final Four appearance and record 38-win season. But only older Tiger fans will also remember former coach Dana Kirk and the parade of allegations against him that led to his ouster and the vacation of all the team’s wins from 1982-86.

Regardless of the less-than-shiny past, the school’s football program is in tatters, so it is safe to assume that the Big East had an eye towards retaining some of their luster and reputation on the basketball court, and Memphis is an excellent fit in that regard.

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Morning Five: 02.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

  1. Sad news from Memphis last night as it was reported that former Tigers coach Dana Kirk, died from a heart attack at 74 years old.  Kirk was essentially the architect of Memphis (State) basketball in the 1980s, as he turned a hoops backwater into a program that consistently recruited top players (mostly local), won 158 games, and made  regular trips to the NCAA Tournament.  Kirk coached the Tigers to the 1985 Final Four behind star forward Keith Lee, but he was dismissed by the school in 1986 and was later imprisoned a few months for federal tax evasion.  His legacy was further tarnished by numerous NCAA violations on his watch, which led to his F4 appearance getting vacated and the school serving a probation in the late 80s.  But make no mistake, Memphis probably wouldn’t have become the elite job it has become today without Kirk’s groundbreaking work there.  RIP.
  2. Wow, Nolan Richardson with an Isiah Thomas moment…  his target, however, wasn’t Larry Bird but rather John Wooden and Bob Knight.  Talking about some of the forgotten great black coaches in history, he said, “No matter how well they did the white power structure in college basketball mostly ignored them. If [John] McLendon had been white, he’d have been a star in the coaching world. If all the great coaches in basketball history like Knight or [John] Wooden had been black, they’d be nobodies.”
  3. In case you missed it on Saturday, Oklahoma’s Willie Warren did not travel with his team to take part in the shellacking in Stillwater (OU lost by 21).  He has the dreaded mononucleosis, which means officially that he’s out ‘indefinitely,’ but it could also mean that he’s shutting it down for the rest of the  Sooners’ miserable season.  OU has games left against Kansas, K-State, Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M in the next three weeks.
  4. We really have to get an invite to this thing one year.  Seth Davis gives his report from the annual NCAA Media Mock Bracket, which he was supposed to attend but couldn’t (weather).  He breaks down the bracket that the media came up with, pointing out the obvious and subtle errors in their version.  Honestly, we’re pretty surprised that the media bracket doesn’t do a better job with this each year — there’s very little pressure to ‘get it right,’ and these people are the ones who eat, sleep and breathe this stuff.
  5. Gary Parrish’s take on why John Calipari should at least listen in case the Nets come to him with an offer is the most compelling we’ve seen on the matter.  The next Phil Jackson will be the coach who gets to tell Lebron James when to pass the ball from time to time, and whoever that person is will ultimately become a legend because of it.
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Team of the 2000s: #8 – Memphis

Posted by jstevrtc on August 11th, 2009

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Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

We already know that this selection is going to cause some consternation among teams that weren’t selected as high.  It’s ok.  We get it.  The selection process ultimately comes down to a matter of taste, and Memphis blended with our palates a little better than the others.  If you disagree, let us know…

#8 – Memphis

team2000memphis

Overview. In the period from 2000-2009, few college basketball programs “felt” bigger than Memphis.  John Calipari showed up to run the show in 2000 and everyone knew what was to come — big-time recruits, lots of one-and-done types, scads more wins, deeper advancement in the NCAA.  Also on the way, whether justified or not, was that dirty feeling that comes with knowing that your program is being led by a fellow on whom you always feel you — or maybe a private detective you’ve hired — need to keep a close eye.  In terms of the on-the-floor expectations, Calipari delivered exactly what was expected of him; after a couple of warm-up years things improved and then really took off in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons when Memphis and their collection of ridiculous interchangable-part type athletes rode Calipari’s Dribble-Drive Offense to consecutive regular-season 30-3 records and Elite Eight apperances.  As a basketball power, Memphis was taken more seriously than it ever had been and it looked like Calipari was building a Leviathan.  The 2007-08 squad validated this by putting up such impressive numbers as achieving the school’s second-ever #1 ranking, a 38-win season (jeez), and its first Final Four since the days of Keith Lee and Dana Kirk back in 1985.  Then, in the championship game…well, in case you didn’t see it….about two minutes to go, up by nine, they….um….well, just check this out.  Even with this, even if you didn’t agree with all of their methods, the Memphis program had still reached elite status in the college hoops world.

calipari coaching memphis

Pinnacle. No question, things were sweetest in Tigerland when they posted that 37th win and made it to that 2008 Final Four.  That particular Memphis team, with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose and a litany of other high-flying gazelles — you remember the likes of Joey Dorsey, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, I’m sure — was so athletic that you forgot about any possibility of, er, shadiness.  For the most part, you just enjoyed the show.  A case could definitely be made for a co-pinnacle for this program mere days later when they were, as noted above, up by nine in the final with only a couple minutes left between them and the true goal inherent in any lofty expectations — a title.

Tailspin. The 63-63 tie that resulted from Mario’s Miracle.  When Mario Chalmers hit that jumper, things were never the same therafter.  You could feel it coming.  Kansas was on fire in that stretch and Memphis couldn’t hit a free throw, but it was that shot, that boot to the forehead, that has started the Tiger program on its tailspin.  The next season (2008-09) was a disappointment by comparison, ending with an upset loss to Missouri in the Sweet 16 even though Memphis was again a popular and sexy pick for the Final Four.  Then came the departure of John Calipari to Kentucky and the NCAA allegations of Derrick Rose’s test-taking naughtiness.

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: C. While Calipari seems to be pretty much off the hook in this Rose business — and Derrick Rose as well, just because he moved on — in the near future the Memphis program could still possibly feel the NCAA’s bitch-slapping pimp hand, and that Pinnacle as described above could be erased from the history books altogether, meaning Memphis might have to pack up the Aerostar and vacate their ’08 Final Four and all 38 of those victories like they never happened.  Enter former Arizona (and single-season at Memphis) assistant Josh Pastner.  Already known among coaching insiders as a hell of a recruiter, he knows what it takes to win; he was a walk-on on Arizona’s 1997 championship team.  It’s not like he’s going to let the post-Calipari roster totally collapse, and he’ll most certainly bring in his own high-level studs.  The question is, given the recent achievements of this program, how much time will he be allowed?  It’s difficult to speculate as far as an outlook for this program until the NCAA decides what they’re going to do to them, if anything.  The buzz around the program is more positive than you might expect, and that’s because of Pastner.  If he’s allowed the time to get over any penalties the NCAA might unload on the program, it will still be quite a while before they return to the level they achieved in the late 2000s.  But, in the end, I’ll bet that this program will do a little better than, say, to go the way of their former home – the now-empty Memphis Pyramid, previously the residence of the NCAA’s Tigers, NBA’s Grizzlies, numerous concerts and conference tournaments, and more recently (but no longer) the home of the biggest and most oddly-shaped Bass Pro Shops you’ve ever seen.

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