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This article is an overview of Memphis Basketball: its history, player accomplishments, and current level of success. One thing a number of Best Sports Blog users have asked for is biographies on major NCAA basketball programs-Memphis among them-so this is one of a series of articles designed to meet that need. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the history of Tigers basketball:
The Memphis basketball program is likely the most successful mid-major in college basketball history. Butler may be making headlines right now but the Tigers have been the most consistently successful mid-major program. Tigers basketball began in 1920-1 with a 22-7 season under inaugural coach Fredrick Grantham. However, after that first year of impressive success, Memphis was a .500 program for a quarter century under coach Zach Curlin. Still, despite his spotty on court record, Curlin built up Memphis basketball and set the stage for his successor’s achievements.
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In 1951, Memphis hired coach Eugene Lambert and the Tigers began their quest to become the most consistent mid-major in collegiate basketball. Lambert went 87-45 over five seasons. Following his departure, the Tigers went 109-34 under coach Bob Vanetta and their success culminated in a trip to the 1957 NIT Championship Game. After a decade of dormancy, Memphis then hired Gene Bartow in 1970 and Bartow led the Tigers on a stunning 1973 NCAA tournament run that culminated in a championship game appearance. That 1973 run put Memphis on the map but Bartow left the next year to coach the University of Illinois. That set up a trend for Memphis: talented coaches have consistently led the program on successful tournament runs but then left for big name programs.Looking for a Memphis Basketball Gear
The Tiger’s shocking 1973 run set the stage for its 1980s rise under coach Dana Kirk. Beginning in 1982, Memphis made the NCAA Sweet Sixteen four times from 1982-1986 and reached the NCAA Final Four in 1985. The 1980s years were considered the glory days of the program and, while it enjoyed relative success in the 1990s, it was not the same until the hire of John Calipari in 2000.
Calipari, a coaching savant and recruiting genius with an unsavory reputation, led the Tigers for nine years and compiled an impressive 214-69 record. His success culminated in a 2008 NCAA tournament run to the championship game with a team led by phenomenon Derrick Rose-the 2011 NBA MVP-and star forward Chris Douglas Roberts. But, those wins were vacated in 2009 after an NCAA investigation and, while the Tiger’s success under coach John Pashner is encouraging, the school is still recovering from its vacated season. But, looking forward, Memphis has many successful years ahead.
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