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Sun04202014

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A farewell to forever Tiger Larry Finch

Penny Hardaway, Elliot Perry, Andre Turner and Nicole Murray
There was laughter as well as tears as words of a fruitful life were spoken into the hearts of hundreds who gathered to say goodbye to a “Tiger” in every sense of the word at Hope Presbyterian Church.
Former U of M star and NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway took the podium and asked former players Elliot Perry, Andre Turner and former Lady Tiger Nicole Murray, who were also on the program, to join him. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)

There was laughter as well as tears as words of a fruitful life were spoken into the hearts of hundreds who gathered to say goodbye to a “Tiger” in every sense of the word at Hope Presbyterian Church.


Eddie Cantler, University of Memphis assistant athletic director for support services, escorts Larry Finch’s widow, Vickie Finch, who was in the company of niece Angela Payne (right) into the memorial service held at the Larry Finch Center last Friday (April 8). (Photo by Earl Stanback)


More than a student, star player or winning coach, Larry Finch came to represent what Memphis can be playing at its best. He was laid to rest Saturday (April 9). (Photo by Earl Stanback)

Family, friends and fans paid their respects to a legend. Basketball great – and hometown hero – Larry Finch was laid to rest on Saturday (April 9) and remembrance was the call for the day. Good memories flooded the sanctuary as many close to Finch took to the podium to share their favorite moments.

Several speakers clearly touched the hearts of those who attended the funeral or watched the televised memorial from their homes. And it was all of the stories that were told that kept the crowd and viewers smiling. The stories reminded everyone that Finch was a man who could pull thousands together. No matter the race or gender, no one was exempt from feeling the closeness and fulfillment that Finch felt.

Throughout his life, Finch – Melrose High School phenom, University of Memphis Tigers basketball team trailblazer, and the winningest coach in the school’s history – exuberated positivity and the tone of his funeral service served as a reminder that joy exists amid sadness.

Some spoke of a “basketball heaven” – a place where there is no pain or suffering, a place where Finch will meet all of those who preceded him in death.

Finch influenced so many people. And it was evident during his homegoing service.

Finch’s one-time secretary, Mitzi Lyne, said he would sometimes pick her son up from the campus school and take him to practice when she needed after-school care, during a time when childcare was limited.

“He understood,” Lyne said. “Now that son is a college basketball coach.”

Long-time friend Verties Sails, head basketball coach at Southwest Tennessee Community College, said he and Finch did a lot together. He told of a time when the two planned to hang out without their wives and sure enough when it was time to go, Finch’s wife and high school sweetheart, Vickie, was in the car.

Mayor A C Wharton, former Mayor Willie Herenton and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen all spoke highly of Finch and his legacy.

Former U of M star and NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway took the podium and asked former players Elliot Perry, Andre Turner and former Lady Tiger Nicole Murray, who were also on the program, to join him.

They all talked about Finch’s mentorship and how he changed their lives.

Murray said Finch was like a father figure.

Hardaway said that if there were one thing he could do again, it would be to play for Finch.

“It wouldn’t be to have more money or even to go back to the NBA. My wish would be that I could turn back the hands of time to 1992 and do it all again,” Hardaway said.

Turner said he was planning to attend Auburn and that his mind was set. But Finch encouraged him to attend the then-Memphis State University. And so Turner became a Tiger.

“Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger” – that was one of Finch’s mottos.

More than a student, star player or winning coach, Finch came to represent what Memphis can be playing at its best.

He stood up for his beliefs.

He believed in a brand.

He believed in family.

He believed in success.

He believed in selflessness.

And he believed in his city.


Finch’s daughter, Shanae, and Vickie Finch release doves during the gravesite ceremony.



Historic Melrose High School, where Finch became a high school basketball legend, has a strong alumni base, including Apostle Alton R. Williams, senior pastor of World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church, who spoke during the homegoing service. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)
From right: Vickie Finch, daughter Shanae, Pauline Stephens (Vickie Finch’s mother), and Angela Payne and DeRone Payne (niece and nephew). (Photo by Earl Stanback)


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