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<br />Larry Finch: Legend & hero

The question started reverberating in Memphis on Saturday: “Did you hear that Larry Finch died?” And with the answer came that feeling of sorrow that surfaces from a point deep within when someone of Finch’s character and persona passes away. The question started reverberating in Memphis on Saturday: “Did you hear that Larry Finch died?”

Larry Finch
Larry Finch

And with the answer – whether yes or no – came that feeling of sorrow that surfaces from a point deep within when someone of Finch’s character and persona passes away.

Larry O. Finch – Melrose High School All-American, University of Memphis (then Memphis State) basketball team star in the 70s and the university’s winningest head coach (1986 to 1997) – died Saturday at St. Francis Hospital. His wife, Vickie, other family and friends were on hand. He was 60.

Born in Memphis on Feb. 16, 1951, Finch played basketball for Melrose High School in Orange Mound and led the team to historic heights. When he graduated from Memphis State, Finch was the college’s all-time leading scorer, now ranking second.


Larry Finch, former basketball head coach at the University of Memphis (seated in wheelchair), was lauded with an honorary street renaming by the City of Memphis in 2007. Councilman Myron Lowery (forefront left) made the presentation to a jubilant crowd of family members and well-wishers. (Photo by Glen Yaun)

As the U of M point guard, Finch is fondly remembered for leading the Memphis State Tigers to the NCAA men’s basketball championship game in 1973. Finch and the Tigers made a heroic stand but fell short against the UCLA Bruins led by now NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton.

Drafted by the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers in 1973, Finch chose to stay in Memphis to play for the Memphis Tams of the American Basketball Association. His professional basketball career included stints with the Tams, the Memphis Sounds, the Baltimore Hustlers and the Baltimore Claws.

Finch was a U of M assistant coach in the 80s. When NCAA violations disrupted the program, he was hired (in 1986) as head coach to restore order. Finch posted 10 out of 11 winning seasons, seven 20-plus seasons and six NCAA tournament appearances. He helped develop standout players such as Elliot Perry, Penny Hardaway, Lorenzen Wright, David Vaughn, Cedric Henderson and Michael Wilson, and his 1991-92 team made the NCAA Elite Eight.

Finch stopped coaching in 1997. And over the past 10 years he was a model of courage as he battled a string of health problems, including diabetes and strokes.

In addition to his wife, Vickie, Finch also leaves his daughter, Shanae, and two sons, and Larry Jr. and James.

A wake for Finch will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Finch Center on the campus of the U of M.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hope Presbyterian Church at 8500 Walnut Grove Rd., 38018. The family requests that those who desire to send flowers send them directly to the church.



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