Originally Published in MemphiSport May/June 2007.
“One night, in 1970, after practice, I asked if anyone wanted to go to Melrose with me to watch a high school game. Finch said, ‘ Coach, you shouldn’t be doing that’ and I asked, ‘Why not?’ Then he said, ‘Well, I am going with you.’ That is how it all got started. After that, Larry and I went to a lot of high school games together”.
-Gene Bartow, former Memphis Head Coach during Finch’s playing days
“Larry set the bar for all coaches. He’s got the most wins and probably always will. He connected the city. He could go into Orange Mound where he grew up or he could go to the Memphis Country Club and feel comfortable and people wanted his autograph and to have their picture taken with him. He brought a city together. He brought a university together. As a player, there was never a better high school player in the city. His legend lives on and always will live on. If he was not the best player ever in the city, (and people have told me he was), he was one of the top two or three.”
“While at Melrose during the summer there was a summer basketball league at Gaston Community Center in South Memphis and Larry would walk from Orange Mound or find other means of transportation there just to play in that league and I would take him home after the games were over. The league was very competitive with most of best high school players including Johnny Neumann playing in it”.
-Leonard Draper, close friend of Finch
“One of the reasons I chose to attend Memphis State was, because of the story that Larry represented. He was an outstanding high school player, a great college player and a good coach all in Memphis, and I wanted to a part of that. Coach was a great competitor. I do not know which meant the most to him, wanting to win or not wanting to lose”.
-Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, former player under Finch
“Larry used to come and pick up teammates from the girl friends houses in his purple Barracuda and four or five players would pile up in his car and we would make it back to dorms at 10:55 pm, because curfew was at 11:00 pm. On road games, Larry would keep to himself a lot go to his room watch television and worry about the game we were about to play”.
-Fred Horton, teammate of Finch at Memphis
“Larry did things that most people don’t know about, before game he would always go to some fans and talk to them. My mother had cancer and she fought it hard the last two seasons when Larry was the coach. Before the game, he would always go over to her and give her a kiss and wish her well”.
-George Lapides, radio broadcaster
“When I graduated from junior college, I was being recruited by Memphis State and Dana Kirk scheduled me to tour the campus. Kirk had alerted the media that I was going to sign and this would be a good photo opportunity. I walked into Kirk’s office and was about to sign until there was a knock on the door, it was coach Finch. Finch asked me if my mom knew that I was going to sign and I said no and he forcefully directed me to go home and get her then come back and sign. Finch knew how close we were as a family and wanted my family to be apart of me signing with Memphis.”
-Kenneth Moody, former player and current President of the Friends of Larry Finch Foundation
“I love him he is an ambassador for Memphis and I have had the opportunity to eat lunch with him on numerous occasions and we had a great time and I keep talking to him about getting better so my whole thing is to see him back walking again back moving around and being Coach Finch because he understands and he talks to me every time we get to see each other and it is just a blessing to get to see each other”.
-Andre Turner, former player under Finch
“Larry was one of those players that made himself a great player. He was not that quick, not that fast, but he had heart. You could hit him, knock him down, but if he got his arm up the ball had a chance to go in. Larry was great a clutch player as I have ever been around.”
-Verties Sails, former assistant coach of Finch while at Melrose High
Photo courtesy of the University of Memphis. Photo Compilation by Mike Bullard.