Tri-State Defender Sport Stories


Olympic hurdler Mamie Rallins remembered for her tenacity on and off the track

By TSU News Service

NASHVILLE – Legendary TSU track and field coach Ed Temple and others say the tenacity of Olympian Mamie Rallins allowed her to overcome hurdles on the course, and in life. Rallins, 74, died May 16 in a car crash in Ohio. She was a hurdler for Temple at Tennessee State University when she was in her early thirties. Temple said in an interview shortly after Rallins’ death that she didn’t let her age hinder her success. “She was a hard worker,” said Temple. “She was determined.” In the book, “A Will to Win,” co-author Dwight Lewis writes about Rallins’ rough upbringing on Chicago’s Southside and her desire to escape her environment. The only girl among five boys, Rallins’ mother died when she was 13. Her father raised her. “It was rough,” Rallins said in the book. “When I was in high school, I saw that by running track I might be able to get out; and even maybe travel around the world someday.” Rallins eventually became a world-class runner, specializing in hurdling. At age 27, she ran the 80-meter hurdles for her team in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and won the first heat in 10.6 seconds. She placed fifth in the semifinals with a time of 10.7 seconds. Sports Illustrated covered the Olympics and in one of its articles wrote the following about Rallins: “Mamie Rallins, that tiny-waisted thing who does not look strong enough to handle a hurdle, always does. It was typical: the gun went off and here came Mamie—who had politely waited for the other girls to start first, since Mamie is courteous that way—suddenly moving so fast that she seemed to be taking tippy-toes steps between the hurdles and passing everybody easily.” During a meet in Romania, Temple said Rallins approached him about attending college at TSU. Temple helped get her a scholarship, and she enrolled at TSU in the fall of 1971 at the age of 30 and became one of the famous Tigerbelles, who won 23 Olympic medals under Temple. When Rallins got to TSU, Temple didn’t allow freshmen to have cars, so she had to park hers. “She had to change a lot of things that she used to do to comply with the freshman requirements,” Temple recalled. “But she moved right along.” Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice, TSU’s director of track and field and a former Tigerbelle, said she was in high school when she first met Rallins in 1975. Cheeseborough-Guice said Rallins left a lasting impression on her because “she treated me with respect, even though I was a high schooler.” Looking back, Cheeseborough-Guice said she admires Rallins’ willingness to do what was needed to further her education. “She was determined to get an education no matter how old she was,” said Cheeseborough-Guice. Rallins went on to compete in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. She graduated with a business degree from TSU in 1976, and later became head coach of the track and field/cross country programs at Ohio State University, Hampton University and Chicago State University. She was the first African-American woman to coach at Ohio State and also served as an assistant athletic director for three years. At the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, Rallins worked as the head manager for the USA women’s track and field team. Lewis said Rallins’ achievements show that she was “more than an Olympian.” “She will remain an inspiration to people everywhere, that with determination, no goal is out of reach,” Lewis said.

Football camp teaches kids about game, parents about concussions

By Staff Last weekend, dozens of youth participated in the Make the Right Call Football Camp at the Liberty Bowl. Aimed at young people from 8-14 years old, the cam...

Grizzlies, Fizdale agree to four-year deal

By Lee Eric Smith

The Memphis Grizzlies have indeed hired Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale as their new head coach, multiple media outlets are reporting. Reportedly, the team and coach agreed on a four-year deal on Thursday. Financial terms were not disclosed. Fizdale, who has spent the past eight years as an assistnat coach with the Miami Heat, brings a reputation for boosting offenses and developing players — two areas where the Grizzlies are in desperate need of upgrades. Quoting a source “familiar with the negotiations,” the Associated Press reported that Fizdale met with Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera on Wednesday in California and that the job had been offered. Fizdale replaces Dave Joerger, fired May 7 after three seasons and three playoff berths. This would be Fizdale’s first head coaching job. He has been with the Heat since the 2008-09 season and has been assistant head coach the past two seasons. Guard Mario Chalmers, who played for Fizdale with the Heat before being traded to Memphis last November, approved of the move. “Fizz to Memphis huh. I like that move. Great coach and even a better person. Happy for my guy Fizz,” Chalmers wrote on Twitter. In Miami, Fizdale helped with player development and game preparation. He also coached the Heat’s summer league in 2010 and 2012. He also was an assistant coach with Golden State in 2003-04 and the Atlanta Hawks between 2004 and 2008. He started coaching as an assistant at his alma mater, the University of San Diego, in 1998 through 2002 where he was a three-year starter at point guard. Memphis also considered former Grizzlies and Nets coach Lionel Hollins, Charlotte assistant Patrick Ewing, Portland assistant Nate Tibbets, Spurs assistants James Borrego and Ettore Messina and Frank Vogel. The Grizzlies have the NBA’s third-longest postseason streak currently at six straight seasons behind only San Antonio (19) and Atlanta (9). Joerger was hired by Sacramento two days after being fired by Memphis. The Grizzlies used an NBA-record 28 players in going 42-40 to still reach the playoffs only to be swept in the first round by San Antonio. The Grizzlies are waiting for center Marc Gasol’s broken right foot to heal after his season ended in February. Point guard Mike Conley is due to become a free agent after left Achilles tendinitis ended his season in early March, and Memphis also has to decide whether to exercise the option on Lance Stephenson and if they should keep Vince Carter, JaMychal Green and Xavier Munford. AP Writers Teresa M. Walker and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

Memphis teen winning at rugby – and life

By Terry Davis, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Five years ago, Donovan Norphlet had never heard of a sport called rugby. That changed when a group called Memphis Inner City Rugby (MICR) came to his school, Power Center Academy. “We listened to what rugby was, and we were interested,” Norphlet said in a YouTube interview. “And we were like, ‘We should go try out and see what it’s about.’ And we did. And ever since then, we’ve been on a rugby team.” For Norphlet, that chance encounter turned into a rugby scholarship at Life University in Georgia. Now, Norphlet and his fellow Running Eagles teammates are Division 1A champions – a championship game in which Norphlet made his first-ever start. The accomplishment might have never happened if not for rugby enthusiasts and community activists Shane Young and Devin O’Brien. The duo co-founded MICR to provide options and teach life lessons to youth who might not otherwise know what rugby is – let alone actually play the sport. “Devin and I became teachers in neighborhoods suffering from adverse socioeconomic conditions,” Young said. “We had a passion for rugby and wanted to see how it could enhance the lives of our students.” Some consider rugby the father of American football – the balls are even shaped similarly. But unlike American football, there is no forward pass, and players can only advance the ball by running or kicking it. It is fast paced, dynamic game that challenges players both mentally and physically. Young said. And though most kids’ sports dreams involve basketball and football, Young said that rugby hasn’t been a tough sell to Memphis youth. New students learn the game by watching video and coaching. Ultimately, they have to get out on the pitch – or rugby field – and try the sport out. “They fall in love with the game pretty fast,” Young said. “They get the ball in their hands, they get to be physical. They became part of a brotherhood or sisterhood by talking a new challenge.” To the untrained eye, rugby looks even more rough and rugged than American football. Players tackle each other, but they don’t wear helmets. Still, tackling in rugby is generally considered very safe – so safe that both the NFL and NCAA have adopted some of the sport’s tackling techniques. The transition from being a high-school student in Memphis to becoming a Life University student wasn’t easy for Norphlet. He struggled with both his grades and his play. But in his second quarter at Life, Norphlet improved his grades, his play, starting on the junior varsity team and gradually moving up to varsity. In the quarterfinal game, Norphlet only played a few minutes, and didn’t play at all in the semi-finals. But when his coach switched strategy for the championship match against St. Mary’s College, he inserted Norphlet as a starter. The move paid off as Life defeated St. Mary’s 24-20 to polish off an undefeated 12-0 season with a D1A championship. For Norphlet, winning a championship as a freshman may not even be his greatest achievement of the year. Life University will field a 7-member team competing for a spot in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Some of the qualifying games will be broadcast on the NBC Sports network in June. This fall, MICR will field three boys’ and two girls’ Memphis high school rugby teams with over 120 students athletes. They will compete with Christian Brothers High School, Houston and other well-established programs. MICR will field teams at Soulsville Charter School (boys and girls), Freedom Preparatory Academy (boys and girls), and Norphlet’s alma mater, PCA. Teams practice at local parks near their schools and play at University of Memphis or the USA Stadium in Millington. It’s not cheap, though – the cost to operate a team for an academic year is $10,000, mostly due to USA Rugby’s mandatory $75 per player registration and insurance cost. MICR doesn’t charge its students, but gets support from donors and sponsors. To learn how you can support MICR, visit or find them on Facebook.

Derrick Henry starts settling in at Titans rookie minicamp

By Teresa M. Walker, AP Pro Football Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans rookie linebacker Aaron Wallace looks across the line of scrimmage and sees an almost a mirror image of himself standing on the other side. Except Derrick Henry is a running back. And luckily for Wallace, now his teammate. "It's a big back coming at you," said Wallace, a big man himself at 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds. "Yeah he's a good player and excited that he's on our team and we get to go against him in practice." Friday marked the first day of rookie minicamp for the Titans' 10 draft picks, 12 undrafted free agents and a batch of 20 players getting a chance at catching a coach's eye. Yet there was Henry attracting plenty of attention despite being Tennessee's fourth pick with the 45th overall selection. Not only did Henry win the Heisman Trophy and help Alabama win another national championship last season, it's the sheer size he brings at running back standing 6-foot-3. Henry did note he's currently about 243 pounds, a bit lighter than the 247 the Titans currently are listing him. Offensive guard Sebastian Tretola, no slouch himself at 6-4 and 314 pounds, summed Henry up with one word: "Massive." "I'll be honest," Tretola said. "We played Alabama, and we saw him. But having him run behind you is a whole different ballgame. He's a huge dude. He knows what he's doing. He's a big powerful back, so it definitely should be fun." After trading for DeMarco Murray in March, the Titans don't need Henry to come in and set records like he did last year at Alabama where he ran for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns. Coach Mike Mularkey called Murray once the Titans drafted Henry with their third pick in the second round and reassured the running back he remains their starter. Mularkey has made it very clear the Titans will be running a smash mouth offense, and the coach said he liked a lot of what he saw from Henry on the rookie's first day on the field. The coach liked how Henry read the holes created by a new offensive line along with his pass protection skills. "Some of the guys got beat up front, he had no problem stepping right up and picking up leakage, so that's very good to see the very first day," Mularkey said. His new coach said he thinks Henry will get comfortable with the Titans' offense pretty quickly. "It's not far off of what he's been familiar with," Mularkey said. "There's a couple different runs that are more our bread and butter, things I think will play to his ability." Henry finds himself in a very comfortable situation. He played at Alabama with current Titans fullback Jalston Fowler, whom Henry calls a big brother. Right guard Chance Warmack also played at Alabama. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who won the Heisman the year before Henry, now is a teammate as well. "We talk all the time," Henry said. "He's a great dude too. He gives great advice." Henry called Murray, who led the NFL in 2014 with 1,845 yards rushing, a great pro he can learn from. Questions about whether Henry is more than a straight-ahead runner helped drop him to No. 45 overall. Henry said he never doubts himself and is just working on areas he can improve himself. Asked if he can make defenders miss as well as run them over, Henry had a short answer. "Yes," Henry said. Notes: Offensive line coach Russ Grimm missed the rookie minicamp with his daughter getting married Saturday. Nose tackle Antwaun Woods also was absent, and Mularkey said Woods had to leave because his girlfriend was having a baby. ... The Titans signed rookie free agent cornerback Morgan Burns. He returned four kickoffs for touchdown last year at Kansas State.

ANALYSIS: Bring Lionel back?

By Lee Eric Smith, [email protected]

Friday night (May 6), Dave Joerger was the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies and the next biggest question was whether or not Mike Conley would return as a free agent. By Monday, Joerger had been fired by the Grizzlies and announced as head coach of the Sacramento Kings. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are shopping for a new head coach to start off a pivotal summer for the local NBA franchise. Whew. “The decision was made because I believe you need a deeply committed leadership team in order to establish the strong culture needed for sustainable long-term success,” said Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace on “(It) was not about Dave’s in-game coaching. Dave did an admirable job managing games. However, being an NBA head coach is about more than just coaching a 48-minute game.” It’s a little too familiar, isn’t it? Popular head coach clashes with the Grizzlies front office, then leads the team to unexpected success and then unceremoniously let go weeks later? Where have we seen this movie before? Oh yeah. Lionel Hollins, circa 2013. And now that the Grizzlies are a team without a coach and Hollins is a coach without a team (fired midseason by the Brooklyn Nets), some Memphians are clamoring for the team to bring him back, correcting the error of letting him go in the first place. Wallace fueled speculation Monday by being photographed having dinner with his former employee at a local Humdingers. All the team has said is that they are proceeding with the search for another coach. But who should that be? What is this “strong culture” that Joerger couldn’t sustain? Here’s my two cents on each of the top candidates, along with Hollins, who may not be a candidate at all: Lionel Hollins Plenty of Memphians were livid when, mere weeks after guiding the team to the Western Conference Finals, Hollins contract was not renewed. He should have kept the job. Even Joerger has said that Hollins deserved to keep the job. But is he the right coach now? The answer depends on how you feel about how far the “Core Four” – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol – can take you. That team and the style of ball it played under Hollins is a playoff team. But in the hot-shooting, run-n-fun NBA of today, it likely won’t get you past the second round. I love and respect Hollins. He would certainly get his team to play hard, no doubt. But unless he (or any coach) have players who can make shots while playing tough, hardnosed defense, bringing him back would be like getting back together with an old flame – fun, familiar, easy … until you remember why you broke up in the first place. Frank Vogel It shouldn’t really surprise anyone that the former Indiana Pacers coach is considered the frontrunner. He and Wallace worked together in Boston, and Vogel’s Pacers teams were often called “Grizzlies East” because of how hard they worked and their slower pace. If he can duplicate his final season with the Pacers, the Grizzlies will take it. With big men David West and Roy Hibbert’s departures, Vogel maintained a top-rated defense, while speeding up the pace en route to a 45-37 record. But that team’s offensive rating also remained in the bottom third of the league. Vogel is a great coach … but (stop me if it sounds familiar) he’ll still need players. David Blatt Cleveland brought Blatt in to gradually build a team around Kyrie Irving. Then LeBron James and Kevin Love joined the squad and the new expectation was a championship. He guided them to the Finals, but was let go early in the 2015-16 season. If Memphis is indeed looking to transition to a different style of play with significant new faces, Blatt might be the guy. Expectations would be tempered here, and absent a surprise trade for a future Hall-of-Famer, fans wouldn’t expect instant success. Mark Jackson The former Golden State Warriors coach and current ESPN analyst deserves some credit for laying the foundation for the Warrior’s current success. Or does he? How much of it has to do with Steph Curry’s ankles finally healing up? At any rate, Jackson, also a minister, would be wildly popular with the church crowd here in Memphis. The question I have is whether he (or any “old-school coach”) would be able to adapt his style to how younger players see the world. I know what you’re thinking: “Younger players.” Well, the Grizzlies have to get some eventually, right? RIGHT? Ettiore Messina Messina is currently an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, but he had a substantial coaching resume in Europe before that. And given how Spurs alumni have fared elsewhere (Mike Budenholzer, Tom Thibodeau, Mike Brown, Brett Brown), one could hope for some of that Spurs mojo to carry over. But for all his pedigree, Messina would still be a rookie NBA head coach. Again, if expectations are reasonable, the team and its fans could grow with him. But my hunch is that the team isn’t looking for a coaching rookie – not while they’re trying to convince Mike Conley to stay. Errbody else There are the Grizzlies’ assistants – Elston Turner, Bob Thornton, Shawn Respert. There are the throwback options – Jeff Van Gundy, Mike D’Antoni, George Karl. I’d love if the Grizzlies at least interviewed Becky Hammon, also an assistant in San Antonio. But the real questions ultimately remain around who will actually suit up on Beale this fall. Will Mike Conley return? Will Marc Gasol be healthy? Will both of them sit still for a rebuild, if that’s what it comes to? Can Wallace find more hidden gems and bargains in the “scratch and dent” bin of the NBA – especially now that teams use advanced stats to recognize a player’s contributions? Wallace was general manager when he realized that a team built around Pau Gasol had done all it could do at that point, and he blew up the team. There were three difficult years of basketball that followed, but eventually that vision manifested into this “Grit-N-Grind” era. Here we are again, but it’s different. I hate to say it, but the Grizzlies as currently constructed around “The Core Four” won’t make it past the second round – if they can make the playoffs at all. But unlike Pau Gasol, whom fans liked but didn’t love, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are sports gods in Memphis. Even if their production declines – and it will – fans want to see those guys retire here. How do you jettison the players your fans show up to see? One way you shift a team culture is by bringing in a new coach. Whoever the Grizzlies hire to replace Joerger will still need to get his players to play hard for him, particularly on the defensive end. And yes, the players will need to make shots from beyond the arc, and in bunches. But don’t be fooled – if Wallace can’t manufacture more roster magic, it won’t much matter who the Grizzlies choose as their coach.

Tubby Smith adds 4 assistants to his Memphis coaching staff

By Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tubby Smith has filled out his Memphis coaching staff by hiring four of his assistants from Texas Tech. Memphis announced Tuesday that Smith has added Pooh Williamson, Joe Esposito, Saul Smith, and Zo Goodson. Smith said in a statement that he put together a staff he's familiar with to bring continuity to help recruit the players that fit his system and style. Williamson, Esposito, and Smith will be assistant coaches with Smith. Goodson will be the director of basketball operations, while Smith is keeping Keelon Lawson from former coach Josh Pastner's staff as director of player development. Memphis hired Smith away from Texas Tech to be the Tigers' new coach last month after Pastner left for Georgia Tech. Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Stephen Curry becomes 1st unanimous MVP

By Yesha Callahan, The Root Throw some respeck on Stephen Curry's name, because he's made history by becoming the NBA's first unanimous MVP. Curry earned his second straight award...

Kings hire coach Dave Joerger 2 days after firing in Memphis

By Josh Dubow, AP Sports Writer Two days after being jettisoned by the Memphis Grizzlies, Dave Joerger has landed in Sacramento as the latest coach looking to end the Kings' decade...