MEMPHIS, Tenn. The train whistle blows and Larry Finch nods with a knowing familiarity. It has been more than four years since he last stood on the Memphis State campus, four years since the former Tigers All-American guard (1970-73) was asked to leave his position as head coach.
"It's going to be a few more minutes before it lets up," he says. "The train goes right along the edge of the campus."
Finch not Keith Lee nor Anfernee Hardaway nor Larry Kenon has the school's all-time best scoring average, 22.3 points per game. He was one of Kirk's assistants when Memphis State made its Final Four run in 1985. He was instrumental in recruiting many of the stars of that team and got to know them intimately.
"He loved playing basketball," Finch said. "He didn't care anything about school. I could see him now, with me chasing him around this campus, making sure he's going to class. And I can see him running from me with those long legs, running back across that parking lot there."
Finch, who sometimes has trouble stringing words together, also remembers the 1980s drug culture. He says the Memphis State basketball team wasn't immune to those societal pressures.
"The drug thing hit the college campuses like, boom!" Finch said. "All of a sudden, here it is, and we've got a big-time problem. There were a lot of young men, who were disillusioned about playing ball, mixing those drugs together. Guys that are on drugs, they feel they can do anything and not worry about the consequences. Then, when the basketball is over, reality sets in."
Two players from the 1982-83 team, A. Maceo Battle and Aaron Price, both died violent deaths. Baskerville Holmes, a freshman on that team, became the third.
"Bat and William Bedford, they were like little sons of mine," Finch said. "It's hard to deal with it when you think about those young people that are no longer with you.
"I sometimes look at the programs that we had. I pick up one and look at it and see of the guys' faces that are no longer with us and it kind of hurts. But that's life."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com
|Larry Finch says he often looks at the programs from Memphis State's 1985 season. 'I pick up one and look at it and see of the guys' faces that are no longer with us and it kind of hurts.'|
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