Two former Memphis Tiger basketball greats — Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and Andre “The Little General” Turner — will host the inaugural Larry Finch Classic.
The Classic will be held Saturday, November 25 at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse at the University of Memphis, and will feature two of America’s top three high school basketball teams. After Mitchell High faces off against Holly Springs (Miss.) High, the East Mustangs take on Findlay Prep. The doubleheader tips off at 6 p.m.
“We wanted to play Findlay Prep and we wanted to do it at the Fieldhouse,” Hardaway said. “I have always respected Coach Finch. I did not want to put my name on it. He is a legend and we don’t want that legend to die. We want to keep his legacy going.”
Finch may be Memphis’ original hometown hoops hero. After starring at Melrose High, he led then-Memphis State University to the 1973 NCAA Championship game, which they lost to UCLA. After a brief pro career, Finch began a long coaching career at Memphis State, where he coached both Hardaway and Turner. He suffered a stroke in 2003 and died in 2011.
“He meant a lot to me,” Hardaway said. “He was a player before he was a coach. He understood the game, so all of the little things I needed help on, he was able to help and make me better. That’s all you can ask from a coach.”
In the opening game of the classic, Turner will coach his Mitchell Tigers against the Holly Springs High School Hawks. Mitchell won two State Class A Championships under Turner and was going for a third before being defeated in the semifinals last season.
“This is just our way of saying thank you and giving back to a man and a community that has given so much to us,” Turner said. “We wouldn’t be who we are if it weren’t for Coach Finch. We want people to always remember what he did for us, for Memphis basketball and for this community.”
Hardaway is in his first official year as the head basketball coach of the two-time defending Tennessee State AAA Champions East Mustangs. The Mustangs are ranked number 1 in the Max Prep high school boys’ basketball rankings. East will face the number 1 ranked according to USA Today high school boys basketball rankings the Findley Prep Pilots out of Henderson, Nevada. The Pilots have former East Mustang TJ Moss as a member of their team this season.
“It’s about paying tribute to a great man and honoring his legacy,” Hardaway said. “Coach Finch impacted so many lives through his coaching and leadership over the years. He literally changed the world one player at a time and that’s what we are trying to do. This event, featuring highly competitive student-athletes, is a manifestation of coach Finch’s legacy,” Hardaway added.
“It’s our turn to call the plays and have fun for a great cause,” Hardaway said. “It’s the community’s chance to see some of the best high school players in the city, region and country in action and give back while they enjoy great high school basketball.”
The games are at 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15. Tickets are available for purchase at East, Mitchell and Holly Springs high schools or at the door. For more information, call 901.600.6136 or email [email protected].