Larry Finch is getting the bronze treatment.
The pride of Orange Mound, Melrose High School, the University of Memphis, and the entire Mid-South region will be honored with a statue and a park named in his honor. Larry Finch Memorial Park will be located on the U of M campus, likely the south campus (near the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center) at Park and Getwell. Merely months after a pair of divisive statues were taken down in Memphis, plans for a statue of a man who helped unify a community in the aftermath of Martin Luther King's assassination are firmly in place.
In confirming the upcoming tribute, U of M president M. David Rudd said, "The values Larry Finch lived were a model for us all, embracing the strength of diversity, the importance of unity in the face of adversity, and the singular power of hope." A committee will be appointed to coordinate all details of the park including a timeline for completion, fund-raising efforts, and the precise location. Among members of the committee are Herb Hilliard, Elliot Perry, Dexter Reed, John Wilfong, Verties Sails, Mary Mitchell, Rochelle Stevens, Harold Byrd, and Otis Sanford.
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Finch's enrollment at what was then known as Memphis State University. Along with fellow Melrose alum Ronnie Robinson, Finch led the Tigers to the 1973 Final Four where they fell in the championship game to the mighty UCLA Bruins. In three years as a varsity player, Finch scored 1,869 points, still the fourth most in Tiger history. His career scoring average (22.3 points per game) is tops at the school. Finch's uniform number (21) was retired by the university, along with Robinson's (33), in 1974.
Finch became an assistant coach and helped the 1984-85 Tigers reach the Final Four. As head coach for 11 years (1996-97), Finch won 220 games, second-most in the program's history. His 1991-92 team reached the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight and his 1994-95 team made it to the Sweet 16. Among the NBA-bound players Finch recruited and coached at Memphis are Elliot Perry, Lorenzen Wright, and the current Tiger head coach, Penny Hardaway. Finch died in 2011 at the age of 60, a series of strokes having all but destroyed his vitality over the last decade of his life. It was a tragically ironic end of a life that enlivened and energized thousands upon thousands for the better part of three decades. The new park will bring much of Finch's spirit to life in a visible, tangible way.
More details to come as the university's plans unfold.