The Memphis Tigers basketball team represents the University of Memphis in NCAA Division I men's College basketball. The Tigers compete in Conference USA, in which they have won five regular season and three conference tournament championships. The team is currently coached by John Calipari. They play home games at FedExForum.


The predecessor of the University of Memphis, West Tennessee State Normal School, first fielded a basketball team in 1920. Zach Curlin began coaching the team in 1924. The Tigers joined the Mississippi Valley Conference in 1928. The team played its early home games at a local high school gym, a local YMCA, and in a room on campus called the "Normal Cage" which allowed only six inches from the court lines to the walls. In 1929, a $100,000 facility on campus named Memorial Gym became the Tigers' home.

Curlin's last season coaching the Tigers was in 1948, by which time the school had been renamed Memphis State College; it would become Memphis State University in 1957. His successor was McCoy Tarry. In 1951, the new $700,000 Field House gym was opened for Tiger home games. In 1952, John Wallisa became the first Memphis State player to be drafted by the NBA. Forest Arnold became the school's first All-American in 1954. The Tigers made the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship for the first time in 1955 under coach Eugene Lambert. Bob Vanatta became the team's coach in 1956 and took the Tigers to the NIT final. Win Wilfong became the team's second All-American in 1957.

Dana Kirk (coach) became head coach in 1979. During the 1980s, the Tigers made seven NCAA tournaments and won multiple Metro Conference titles. Keith Lee began playing for the Tigers in 1982, and Memphis was ranked number one in both major national polls for the first time the same year. Lee eventually led the team to its second Final Four appearance in 1985. Only a year later, however, Kirk was forced out after becoming the subject of a criminal investigation. He was also found to have committed many NCAA violations as well; the Tigers were forced to sit out the 1986 NCAA Tournament and were stripped of their Final Four appearance from 1985

Former player Larry Finch took over head coaching duties in 1986. One of Finch's first recruits, Elliot Perry, began playing for the team in 1987. In the 1988-89 season, the Tigers set a school record by starting the game against Louisville with a 24-0 run. After holding a nine point lead with two minutes and twelve seconds left in regulation, the Tigers lost to Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball in the National Championship in overtime by the final score of 75-68, becoming the second NCAA runner-up team in Memphis history.

Top 5 coaches (by winning percentage) Edit

Coach Years Winning % (Overall Record )
John Calipari 2000-Present 77.8% (238-68)
Bob Vanatta 1956-62 76.2% (109-34)
Fred Grantham 1920-21 75.0% (22-7-1)
Dana Kirk (basketball) 1979-86 73.1% (158-58)
Gene Bartow 1970-74 72.2% (83-32)

Top 5 coaches (by victories) Edit

Coach Years Overall Record
John Calipari 2000-Present 238-68
Larry Finch 1986-97 220-130
Zach Curlin 1924-48 173-184
Dana Kirk (basketball) 1979-86 158-58
Bob Vanatta 1956-62 109-34


Year Player
1954 Forest Arnold
1957 Win Wilfong
1973 Larry Finch
1982 Keith Lee
1983 Keith Lee
1984 Keith Lee
1985 Keith Lee
1986 William Bedford
1993 Anfernee Hardaway
1996 Lorenzen Wright
2006 Rodney Carney
2008 Chris Douglas-Roberts
2008 Derrick Rose

Retired jerseysEdit

The University of Memphis has retired eight jerseys.

Retired basketball jerseys
Number Player Years played
22 Win Wilfong 1955–57
44 John Gunn 1974–76
21 Larry Finch 1970-73
33 Ronnie Robinson 1970–73
24 Keith Lee 1981–85
34 Elliot Perry 1987-91
25 Anfernee Hardaway 1991-93
13 Forest Arnold 1952–56


Notes and referencesEdit

External linksEdit

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