5Q with Pau Gasol

1. What are the biggest differences between Memphis and L.A.?
Los Angeles is much more bigger and livelier than Memphis, and I think there are way more beautiful women in L.A.

2. What do you miss most about Memphis?
I miss the good barbecue, man, and Beale Street.

3. Can you think of a reason why a Memphis fan might boo you when you come back to Memphis to play?
I play for L.A. Everybody loves to boo and trash-talk the world champions.

4. Will you ever shave the beard?
No. No time soon. Well…maybe when I retire from professional basketball.

5. Do you think your brother, Marc, will ever make an All-Star team?
I sure hope so. I would love to see that. As long as he continues to improve and learn the NBA, I can’t see why he wouldn’t make an All-Star roster.

Brittany, Grizzlies Claw Crew

What inspired you to join the Claw Crew? I love basketball. I’m a basketball fanatic. Mixed with my crazy silly personality, it’s the best job you can ever have.

Is there an accuracy competition to see who gets to shoot the prize cannon? No. Most of the machines that we shoot at people are too big for me to handle. I’m usually the one pumping up the crowd and the guys get to shoot the gun.

Who would be your dream celebrity to shoot off the new celebrity prize cannon? My dream celebrity would be, I’d say, Usher. I could see him having fun with it.

Do you ever have nightmares about The Simpsons episode where Ned Flanders’ wife dies? No, I hope not.

When do you personally feel the need to “make some noise”?
I usually get really, really excited when we’re down 10 and I feel a comeback coming on, or when we’re in the lead.

Do you think “Ballroom Blitz” needs to be retired as the song for the Pepsi Ball Blaster? No. I zone out when we’re out there so I hear it, but I don’t really hear it. But, change is good.

What do you order at McDonald’s (Grizzlies Claw Crew sponsor)? I do go there frequently. I’ll eat the nuggets or Filet-O-Fish meal.

Where do you spend a typical night following a Grizzlies game? We go to Silver Spoon on Friday after a win. On a Saturday, win or lose, we go to a club called Level 2. During the week you can find me at the house. Shout out to the Claw Crew!

By Andy Skrzat, Photo by Chase Gustafson.

Should the Grizzlies Trade for CDR?

JM: The Ronnie Brewer deal was not a bad one at all, but the Grizzlies could’ve also acquired Chris Douglas-Roberts who is just as good on the court and already extremely popular in this city.

Kevin: I hate to break it to you and all of Tiger Nation, but CDR is not just as good as a healthy Ronnie Brewer. All season long, CDR has been struggling to get good minutes on the NBA’s worst team.

JM: Struggling to get good minutes? I don’t think so. CDR averages 28.9 and Brewer 31. Plus, CDR averages more points in those fewer minutes. He’s also younger and makes less money. So, how in the world would he not have been the better fit?

Kevin: For one, Brewer can play more positions than CDR. Plus, he has more NBA and playoff experience. This Grizzlies team is overloaded with young players with potential. Brewer brings valuable versatility and experience off the bench. Brewer is also from this area and will generate more fan interest from the state of Arkansas.

JM: More fan interest from Arkansas? Really? I’m pretty sure the Grizzlies need more fan interest from Memphis before they start concerning themselves with another state. And if they want more interest from this city, one of the most beloved Tigers of the past decade would be a good start.

Kevin: History has shown that former Tigers (Antonio Burks) who play insignificant minutes don’t draw people to the box office. It is too bad Reke Havoc fell to the Kings. He would have been money on and off the court in the Land of the Grizz.

JM: Reke Havoc would have been amazing and it’s too bad the Grizzlies didn’t pick him. But CDR is a much better player than Antonio Burks and he would be getting plenty of minutes.

Kevin: Maybe so, but the Grizzlies can improve their roster without adding a former Tiger.

The Grizzlies need to ignore the jerseys that the players wore in college and just focus on getting good players who fit the needs of the team.

JM: Clearly you just don’t want a former Tiger on the team. Because on paper, Brewer is not definitively better than CDR. Admit it–you just don’t like the Tigers.

Kevin: Untrue. I would much rather have a former Memphis Tiger on the roster than another former UConn Husky. I am just able to think outside of the Tiger box. You would like Mike Conley if he were a former Tiger.

JM: Completely untrue. Everyone knows I’m also a Buckeye fan, and I still think Mike Conley should not be the starting point guard for this team or any other team in the NBA.

Kevin: You have to consider the risk vs. the reward. It is dangerous for the Grizz to draft a beloved former Tiger who may not play. The Grizzlies would run the risk of a backlash from Tiger fans that over value the pro talent potential of CDR.

JM: Why wouldn’t he play? That just doesn’t make sense. Maybe he wouldn’t start, but there’s no reason he wouldn’t get at least 25 minutes off the worst bench in the history of the NBA.

Kevin: CDR is very vocal on Twitter when he gets upset. You don’t want him turning the Grizz and Tiger fan bases against each other on the World Wide Web. Everyone with a Twitter account knows CDR is unhappy in New Jersey.

JM: Of course, I have a Twitter. I know it. Who would be happy in New Jersey? Whether you’re playing for the Nets or not?

Kevin: Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, John Calipari and John Wall may both be happy in New Jersey after this season.

JM: Haha. You may be right. Cal may even try to sell his next recruiting class to a different team this time. Too bad his recruiting class is not as good as Josh Pastner’s.  M

Kevin Cerrito and Jan Michael Hartelust can be heard every Tuesday at 6pm on Sports 56 WHBQ. Podcasts of the broadcasts can be found online at memphissport.net

The Second Annual Memphisport High School Rankings

SO EXACTLY WHICH AREA HIGH SCHOOLS HAVE GONE ABOVE AND BEYOND THIS PAST YEAR TO PRODUCE A QUALITY ATHLETIC PROGRAM, ONE THAT COMPETES INTENSELY IN EVERY VARSITY SPORT?

Sure, football, basketball, and perhaps baseball have traditionally been labeled marquee sports throughout prep athletic programs for years. But what about wrestling? What about soccer? And what about the TSSAA’s newest varsity additions in swimming and bowling? Which schools are actually assembling prolific programs in these fledging sports? From wrestling to bowling to football to soccer, Memphis Sport magazine has followed every Memphis-area high school within the past year to determine which ones are excelling across the board athletically.

1. ST. GEORGE’S INDEPENDENT SCHOOL
#1 overall, #1 in independent schools, #2 in girls sports, #4 in boys sports

No Bobby Parks, Jr. No problem. Unlike last year when the St. George’s boys basketball team dramatic postseason run ended in a loss in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association championship game with former St. George’s and current Melrose player Parks — the son of former Memphis State standout Bobby Parks, Sr. — the Gryphons did not encounter any disappointment during its recent trip to Nashville for the state tournament.

In just its fifth year of existence, St. George’s captured its first gold ball after upending University School f Nashville, 56-41, at Lipcomb University’s Allen Arena. In was, in fact, a monumental accomplish for a Gryphon squad, who had taken on the businesslike approach throughout a majority of the postseason, particularly after its win against Donelson Academy in the TSSAA Division 2-A sub-state contest.

After the final horn had sounded to end the game, the entire Gryphon team shook hands with the opposing team and immediately retreated to the locker room, where their attention quickly shifted toward their opponent in the state tournament. After all, the sensed that if they keep their attention on the primary task that awaited, they would eventually have their chance to partake in a postgame celebration.

That moment ultimately came to fruition after the Gryphons’ impressive win in the Division 2-A final, a feat that, in many ways, resulted in St. George’s being dubbed the No. 1 overall school, according to year-long numerical rankings by Memphis Sport Magazine.

More impressive is that the Gryphons, who lost the D2-A title game last year en route to a 24-7 mark and wound up second overall in the high school rankings, managed to erase the memory of last year’s setback with just one returning starter, senior shooting guard Asa Toney, who earned Most Valuable Player honors.

2. MEMPHIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL
#2 overall, #2 in independent schools, #1 in boys sports

The streak continues.

One year after finishing No. 6 overall in the high school rankings, MUS moved four spots up to second, in large part because the nationally ranked Owls football team earned its second consecutive TSSAA Division 2-AA championship with a 27-17 victory over Nashville Montgomery Bell Academy in the Bluecross Bowl in Cookville, Tennessee.

Led by West Virginia signee Barry Brunetti, the Owls became the first area team since 1969 to registered consecutive undefeated seasons. Brunetti was his usual reliable self under center, having completed 21-of-27 attempts for 247 yards and two touchdowns before being named the offensive Most Valuable Player. For Brunetti, the accolades did not end there as he was named to the PARADE All-American Team, the first Memphis-area player in a decade to achieve such an honor.

3. CHRISTIAN BROTHERS HS
#3 overall, #3 in independent schools, #2 in boys sports

If it wasn’t for Chris Deane’s desperation 70-foot heave as time expired, perhaps the Brothers would not even be in this position. But because Deane’s dramatic shoot at the buzzer earned CBHS a spot in the recent Division 2-AA championship game against eventual state champion Montgomery Bell Academy, the Purple Wave moved two spots up to No. 3 overall in this year’s rankings.

Despite dropping a close decision to heavily-favorite MBA in the D2-AA final, the Brothers enjoyed one of his best campaigns in recent years with a 26-5 mark. Additionally, senior standout Frankie Bougher was named a finalist for D2-AA Mr. Basketball.

4. ST. BENEDICT AT AUBURNDALE
#4 overall. #4 in independent schools, #4 in girls sports, #9 in boys sports

Different year, same result.

After finishing No. 4 overall in Memphis Sport Magazine’s high school rankings last year, St. Benedict wound up in the same position this year. Only this time, the Eagles’ athletic department made tremendous strides within the past year, especially SBA’s volleyball team, which was amongst the most-feared squads in Shelby-Metro this past season.

The Lady Eagles earned their first-ever TSSAA Division 2-AA championship by sweeping Nashville Father Ryan in a relatively intense match, 25-22, 25-20, 26-24. The ending, in fact, was even more memorable for SBA’s Megan Pulio, a senior setter who was named the D2-AA MVP after tallying a game-best 32 assists in helping propel the Lady Eagles to the state crown.

5. HARDING ACADEMY
#5 overall. #5 in independent schools, #5 in girls sports, #3 in boys sports

First the husband. And now the wife.

One year after guiding Kevin Starks guided Harding Academy’s boys basketball team to its second consecutive TSSAA Division 2-A championships, his wife, Becky, a former Ole Miss standout, added a third state crown to the family when she coached the Lady Lions to the a championship earlier this month in just her first season.

Harding overcame Franklin Road Academy’s remarkable first-half shooting display and got a team-high 19 points from leading scorer Alex Black, a senior was named to the D2-A all-tournament team after leading the Lions to a 52-43 triumph.

“We work hard and together,” said Kevin Starks, who is also Harding’s athletics director. “We try to hire great coaches who love kids and the mission of Harding Academy.  We believe if we do things the right way then we will be blessed.”

6. EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
#6 overall. #6 in independent schools, #7 in girls sports, #5 in boys sports

ECS finished in the Top 10 in the high school rankings for the first time.

Credit the Lady Eagles volleyball squad, which upended Knoxville Webb in arguably one of its most classic matches in recent memory, 17-25, 25-10, 25-21, 25-23 to capture the 2009 Division 2-A championship at Middle Tennessee State University, their first in school history.

What was even more astounding is that the Lady Eagles got it done, in large part because setter Kristen Spinks, despite being hampered by an aggravated ankle, registered a game-high 26 assists and was named the D2-A MVP.

7. WHITE STATION HS
#7 overall. #1 in public schools, #8 in girls sports, #7 in boys sports

He averages a little more than 30 points per game, which tops any other current Shelby-Metro basketball player. His 3,300-plus points are third best in the history of boys basketball in Shelby County and sixth in Tennessee. He has already been selected to represent Memphis in the upcoming McDonald’s All-American game. And this fall, he is headed to the University of Memphis.

More impressive for White Station is that its football team seized the Class 6A championship with a 37-27 victory over Maryville in December to become only the second area team (Ridgeway) to capture basketball and football state titles in the same calendar year.

8. ST. AGNES ACADEMY
#8 overall. #7 in independent schools, #1 in girls sports

Not this year.

One year after finishing as runner-up cross-town rival St. Benedict in the Division 2 state bowling championship, the Stars returned the favor by downing the Eagles in an intense battle, 21-10, to cap its first undefeated season in school history.

“It’s a thrill. This was just our year,” St. Agnes coach Carolyn Adcock said of her Stars, who completed a 14-0 season after knocking off five-time defending state champion St. Benedict.

9. HOUSTON HS
#9 overall. #2 in public schools, #9 in girls sports, #11 in boys sports

The Houston and Collierville baseball teams took part in a number of classic battles during the 2009 campaign, but it was the Mustangs who emerged victorious in the TSSAA District 15-AAA championship last May. The Mustangs got a superb display from senior pitcher Daniel Palo. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Middle Tennessee State signee allowed four runs on six hits and struck out seven, but it was his heroics at the plate that propelled Houston to the 7-4 win for its third district crown in as many seasons.

Houston finished third Memphis Sport Magazine’s high school rankings last year.

9. HUTCHISON SCHOOL
#9 overall. #8 in independent schools, #4 in girls sports

A tennis state championship, a lacrosse state runner-up finish, and a second-place region finish in track and field are among the reasons the Hutchison School salvaged its first Top 10 finish in the high school rankings.

But Hutchison Community Relations Coordinator Steve O’Dell was more enthralled with regards to the overall success the school’s athletic department has enjoyed in recent years.

In the past two years, for example, Hutchison has produced 10 lacrosse Academic All-Americans, one soccer academic All-American, two lacrosse All-Americans, and one volleyball All-American, among others. Additionally, Hutchison has also received the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Team Academic Award for the past two years.

“Hutchison has had tremendous success in recent years in the classroom and on the field,” O’Dell said. One reason is that we have hired the best and most qualified coaches and teachers.”

THE COMPLETE LIST

1. St. George’s Independent School (90 pts.)

2. Memphis University School (80 pts.)

3. Christian Brothers HS (78 pts.)

4. St. Benedict at Auburndale (77 pts.)

5. Harding Academy (73 pts.)

6. Evangelilcal Christian School (66 pts.)

7. White Station HS (60 pts.)

8. St. Agnes Academy (55 pts.)

9. Houston HS (45 pts.)

9. Hutchison School (45 pts.)

11. Bartlett HS (42 pts.)

11. Lausanne School (42 pts.)

13. Briarcrest Christian School (37 pts.)

13. Cordova HS (37 pts.)

15. Central HS (36 pts.)

16. Collierville HS (28 pts.)

16. Southern Baptist Educational Center (28 pts.)

16. St. Mary’s Episcopal School (28 pts.)

19. Mitchell HS (18 pts.)

20. First Assembly Christian School (16 pts.)

20. Manassas HS (16 pts.)

22. Booker T. Washington HS (15 pts.)

22. Sheffield HS (15 pts.)

24. Arlington HS (14 pts.)

25. Ridgeway HS (12 pts.)

26. Bishop Byrne HS (10 pts.)

26. Overton HS (10 pts.)

26. Riverdale HS (10 pts.)

29. Fairley HS (9 pts.)

29. Frayser HS (9 pts.)

29. Germantown HS (9 pts.)

29. Kingsbury HS (9 pts.)

29. North Side HS (9 pts.)

29. Trezevant HS (9 pts.)

29. Whitehaven HS (9 pts.)

36. Carver HS (6 pts.)

36. Melrose HS (6 pts.)

36. Millington HS (6 pts.)

36. Raliegh Egypt HS (6 pts.)

40. Bolton HS (4 pts.)

41. Craigmont HS (3 pts.)

41. Hillcrest HS (3 pts.)

41. Kirby HS (3 pts.)

41. Oakhaven HS (3 pts.)

41. Wooddale HS (3 pts.)

Compiled by MEMPHISPORT, Written by Andre Johnson.

Growing Up Grizz

On this season’s Germantown High School basketball team, blossoming hoop dreams collided with NBA accomplishment. The team featured seven seniors, two of whom had some extra celebrity connected to their last names.

Austin Hollins, son of Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, and Todd Mayo, brother of starting guard O.J. Mayo, both finished out their high school careers with the Red Devils in the first step of what they both hope will be basketball careers as fruitful as those of their NBA relatives.

“That’s the big dream,” Austin says of his basketball, “to play in the NBA.”

While both Mayo and Hollins have taken inspiration from their exposure to basketball at the highest level, neither plays to impress anyone else, with each player striving to make their own mark on the game.

“When I’m out there I’m not playing for [my dad],” Austin said. “I’m out there to be with my team and do the best I can to win games.”

The strong desire for individual recognition is certainly nothing new in any father-son or brotherly relationship, but Austin and Todd’s continuing individual motivation comes from a focus on individuality seen in both families.

“I’ve told all my kids that if they’re playing sports for me to watch them play then they should quit,” Austin’s father Lionel said. “If this is your dream, you have to live it. You can’t try to live it for me because you’re not going to put in the same kind of work that you need to and you’re not going to have the passion that you need to be successful.”

Not to say either player hides their connections. Teammates often ask Austin what play they should run, because he’s the ‘coach’. Sometimes members of the team refer to Todd and another Germantown player as ‘brothers’ because of the player’s resemblance to O.J. Mayo. Everyone knows about it, but no one on the team stops to
think much about it. To them, this is just a big coincidence. The real story is on the basketball court.

And both players have excelled there. All season the gyms have been packed with fans, scouts, coaches, and, on occasion, a certain NBA coach or star player. The result has been a Division I scholarship to Minnesota for Austin, and a multitude of Division-I scholarship offers (Missouri, Southern Miss, West Virginia and Tennessee to name a few) for Todd. Germantown Head Coach Newton Mealer estimated that at least 20 D-I coaches have attended each of the school’s open gyms, and that during the season he would get between 35 and 40 calls per week regarding this year’s team.

In any Disney sports movie, the attention brought by Austin and Todd would result in an overly emotional mutiny from the rest, but not so at Germantown, where the team is a family.

“Guys don’t sit around here and get jealous,” Todd said. “Any guy who might notice that me or Austin will have a chance to play in Division-I also realizes that if they work hard, they can get there too. And now with all the coaches and everyone here, everyone on the team can get noticed.”

While Austin benefitted from his family’s commitment to staying in Memphis, even when Coach Hollins job situation was uncertain, Todd had a tough social hill to climb at GHS. He had moved to Memphis in 2008, relocating from West Virginia with his brother and the family after O.J. was drafted by the Grizzlies. He spent his first season at Houston High School, but transferred after being dissatisfied with the level of commitment he saw on that team. He made the switch to Germantown, but now found himself thrust into a team with six seniors who had been playing together for years. Now the vocal, rally-the-troops locker room leader had to make his way as the new guy–again.

“It was kind of difficult,” Todd said. “I just had to come in and stay humble, work hard, be the first one in the gym and the last one in the gym. Try to talk on the court and off the court to start friendships. It was kind of difficult but I got through it.”

And those friendships have kept the team close. When not practicing, the team hangs out at the Hollins house behind the school–shooting pool, watching movies, and playing video games. It’s easy to see why the kids hang out there, the house is within eyesight of the gym, and sometimes the kids can glean some advice from an NBA coach.

Lionel loves talking basketball with the kids, but Coach Hollins doesn’t limit all his advice to the court. When one young player expressed his dismay concerning having to cut his pony tail in order to play basketball in high school, father Hollins came on display.

“Well what’s important?” Lionel asked the boy. “You having that ponytail or you playing basketball? Your basketball is going to take you a lot further than that ponytail is, and at some point you’re going to have to cut that ponytail to get a job. So what’s your priority? What’s your love? What’s your passion? It’s about making good decisions.”

O.J. takes a different approach. He occasionally reminds his brother to stay focused on school and basketball, but usually prefers to lead by example.

“I try to make things easier for him, let him have the opportunities and advantages that come with me being a professional ball player and use those to make him better as a ball player and as a person,” O.J. said. “I just try to make sure he’s taken care of.”

While the fatherly advice and brotherly support are there to be had, the focus usually stays on the game, and that’s where both Austin and Todd get the most from their famous relatives. Germantown High School coach Newton Mealer describes Austin as a ‘student of the game,’ a player with immense knowledge and work ethic, and Todd as the most disciplined gym rat on the team.

“No one works the way Austin and Todd do, especially when the coach is not around,” Mealer said. “They are almost always the first ones in and out of the gym.”

Austin gleans his work ethic from his father, the hard-nosed NBA head coach, and Todd learned from summers working out with his brother and other NBA players in Chicago.

“I’m seeing Dwayne Wade, I mean he’s right here working in this court, and then I see O.J. and Bill Walker and certain other NBA players and they’re working on this court,” Todd said. “Then I’m thinking, ‘These guys are going hard, and this is where I want to be.’ When I see them work I see what it takes to there.”

What it takes is apparently 50 sit-ups, 50 pushups, 200 rope skips, and time with the weight belt just before every game. That comes in addition to the normal workout. The first time Mealer saw Todd come onto the floor for a game already drenched in sweat from his “warm-up,” he said, “Son you know we’re about to play right?”

“That’s okay Coach,” Todd replied. “I need to go into every game like I’ve already played a half.”

It is that kind of insane commitment that has Austin and Todd where they are. While both players are considered D-I talent, neither is considered a lock for the NBA right now. It’s not too far from where Grizzlies Center Marc Gasol was when spending his last two years at Lausanne while his brother Pau starred for Memphis. No one thought he would be an NBA caliber player then, and look at him now.

“You can never settle,” Marc said of playing at that age. “Don’t ever let anybody know what you can and cannot do and what you can or cannot be, because you never know.”

While the younger Mayo and Hollins benefit from their family connections as Gasol did, they know where they want to be and use that as just part of what keeps them motivated.

For Austin, it came from a lifetime of advice from a father who pushes him, as he pushes his players, to make decisions and commit to them. For Todd, it comes from years of watching his brother consistently turn down socializing in favor of spending time in the gym, and then seeing that commitment take him out of West Virginia, to USC and then to the NBA.

Now for both players, the NBA is a dream for the future, but at this moment it’s time for college.

By Doug Gillon, Photo by Chase Gustafson.

A Day at Power Life

I, like most casual lifters, thought I knew enough about working out and my body to create a unique and effective workout. I make it to the gym five or six times a week, and do my best to watch what I eat. Do I cheat? Sure. Maybe have a midnight snack that I should not or head to the bars for a few hundred calories that are not needed.

It wasn’t until I entered Power Life Fitness that I realized how much this affected my body and overall health. Kelvin “York” Brown, the director of training and vice president of Power Life Fitness, not only understands how the body works, but also what a lifter needs to do to get the most out of his or her body.

In just a few short exercises, he challenged me in a way I haven’t felt in years. It felt like my first time lifting all over again. Beginning with a 15 minute conditioning exercise, York, profiled in the last issue of Memphis Sport, ran me through a series of muscle conditioning exercises.

“If you want to have a unique body, you have to have unique exercises,” York told me. Unique it was as he ran me through a 30 minute gridiron, challenging my upper body.  At no point during my brief stay at Power Life Fitness did I rest for more than 45 seconds. York challenged me through the bench press, and then quickly switched me over to dumb bells for one armed chest presses. After this, we moved to some unique exercises, one of which York labeled “windshield wipers”, before moving back to my chest.  This all ended with a five minute expenditure on the treadmill with one minute of jogging followed by a minute of walking.

The point of continuously moving and doing something, York claimed, was to keep my heart rate going so that my body would burn off more calories.

I don’t want you to think that York’s knowledge is limited to the gym. He has a Master Trainer Certification through NFPT which he utilizes to travel around the Mid-South to give lectures. His most recent one, held in Mississippi during an ice storm, saw trainers from all over Mississippi, including several colleges, for a two day symposium.

He’ll share this knowledge with the people he trains, just get him started. A fellow Memphis Sport employee brought up fast food, leading York to go on a tangent for several minutes that included not only what certain foods can do to the body, but also how that effects the recovery process later in life, red and white blood cells, and his own background. York impressed me with how he could just go on about any health or fitness related subject.

The bottom line with York and the staff at Power Life Fitness is that they are a group whose advice transcends the walls of their gym. While most places train people in the proper movements with weights, the staff at Power Life Fitness advices you on what to eat before a lift, as well as the rest of the day. If you want to get in shape and feel better about yourself, give Power Life Fitness a call and arrange a meeting.

Though I only went once, I have a feeling it won’t be the last time. Besides, I feel like York offered me a challenge. As I was leaving the gym, he handed me a card and said, “Call me in 36 hours. Let me know how you feel.” I will call him. As I lie motionless and sore in my bed.

By Andy Skrzat, Photo by Mike Bullard. For more details, call 901-454-0003, or visit Power Life Fitness’ website at powerlifefitness.net.

Disgraced But Remembered

It was the best of times,it was the worst of times. The first line of “A Tale of Two Cities” came to mind recently when Dana Kirk passed away. I thought of Gene Bartow being honored by the University of Memphis with a banner hanging from the rafters of the FedExForum and Kirk who brought great discredit to the university 25 years ago.

Coach Kirk was an easy guy to like. I worked with him for seven years as the play-by-play broadcaster for the Tigers and doing his TV show on Channel 5 every Sunday morning during the season. Most fans agreed that Kirk was without peer as a “bench” coach, meaning that he could follow the game and make adjustments on the move. The Tigers did win a lot of close games and he would say it was those close games that really turned him on. However it was his life off the court that got him into trouble. For his transgressions, four months in a federal pen didn’t seem so bad. They nailed him for tax evasion, intimidating witnesses and obstructing justice. He was fired by Memphis State and he never again coached Division I basketball. As my old radio partner Jeff Weinberger said, “he got a life sentence” he added, “I have to think that, more that once Coach Kirk thought of what it would’ve been like, had he stayed out of legal trouble. He would have made a lot money–a lot of money.

One aspect of Kirk’s shenanigans that the Fed’s looked into were a couple of games in the ‘85 season that looked suspicious. One was the Detroit game. The Tigers were a lopsided favorite but right before the game a lot of Detroit money showed up in Las Vegas and that raised red flags all over the place. Detroit won the game. The other incident was the Tigers game with Villanova in the NCAA semi-finals. The Tigers, on paper, were the better team but the Wildcats won the game and it was the play of the Tigers guards that caught everyone’s attention. Several times different players were open for shots but passed instead making the West Tennessee Federal Prosecutor Hickman Ewing suspicious.

Ewing told me that several basketball experts had concluded that after a while the Villanova players realized that the Tigers were not going to shoot, so they backed off and their five players were guarding our four. He said there was no way he could prove this, so they left it alone.

There were many reports that Kirk had lost thousands of dollars playing gin rummy and used the Detroit game and the Villanova game to get out from under the debt. This is well known to many, many Tiger fans and I’m not saying it is true, just possible motivation.

Dana and I had a fast-paced, sometimes raucous TV show that was fun to do. Our ratings were good and I never thought it would end. But Coach Kirk shopped the show to Channel 3 and when 5 refused to get into a bidding war, the show moved.

The host for WREG-TV was Tom Stocker, an honest to goodness reporter. He looked for the real story of the game, wanted to dig into preparation and analyze strategy. In other words–give as much information as possible to the viewer–which is what hosts are supposed to do. Kirk wanted the other approach and as it turned out, he was sorry he moved. He asked me to help, but I told him there was nothing I could do.

Basketball fans got an insight into big-time college basketball when it came to light that Keith Lee got more than $40,000 from Kirk to play for the Tigers. Keith was the top high school prospect in this area and his signing was the foundation for the Tigers great success. The kid from West Memphis was, to put it bluntly, a stud. Boy, could he play. He became Memphis’ all-time leading scorer. Yes, he was a bargin for 40 G’s. Kirk recruited other great players: Baskerville Holmes, Bobby Parks, Andre Turner, “Doom” Haynes, William Bedford, John Wilfong, Vincent Askew and more.

Combine great players and a great coach and you’ll get–Dana Kirk and the Tigers. It’s a shame that they can’t be honored as one of our all time greats. But they will be in that limbo consigned to disgraced teams. Too bad. I loved those guys.

Big Jack’s book, “Jack Eaton: Great Scott, I Rhyme A Lot”, is available for purchase in both autographed and non-autographed versions at memphissport.net.Big Jack can be heard every Friday at 8am on KWAM 990 alongside former County Commissioner John Willingham.


Memphisport Live: 04.27.10

Kevin and Marcus host an all new edition of Hang Up & Listen. Plus, Cedric Henderson calls in talk Tiger basketball, NBA Playoffs, and more.

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Memphisport Live: 04.20.10

Andy and The Moc host a special edition of MSL featuring a special appearance by the Sports Bar’s Rob Fischer.

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Ode To Big Ben

All us Steelers fans secretly know
That the time has come for Ben Roethlisberger to go.

The guy is a wierdo,a real pervert;
And if he keeps it up bound to get somebody hurt.

He has two or three shooters-sees a couple of chicks
And -bingo – is up to the same old tricks.

The NFL is upset and there is little doubt
That they would like to kick him out.

But here I think they’ll smile and then say-cheese;
Because multi million dollar QB’s don’t grow on trees.

They’re sure to fine him and I should mention
There will probably be a three or four game suspension.

The Steelers will be tougher and it’s a pretty safe bet
Will be looking for the best trade they can possibly get.

The Rooney’s run a tight ship and they’ll get a handle
Because the last thing they want is another sex scandal.

So it’s good-bye Ben,we love you and that’s a fact
We just hope and pray you clean up your act.

If you don’t I think I can say without fail
You’re gonna wind up sitting in jail.

As for the Steelers -I have been quietly told
Tim Tebow will look good in Black and Gold.