Former Tiger basketball coach Dana Kirk dies

Dana Kirk
Dana Kirk

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Dana Kirk, who in 1985 coached the Memphis State Tigers to a Final Four appearance that was vacated when the school was found guilty of NCAA violations, Died Monday.

University of Memphis spokesman Lamar Chance said Kirk died Monday in Memphis.

Kirk was fired after the 1986 season just before he was indicted on income tax evasion. He served four months in a federal minimum-security prison in Montgomery, Ala.

Kirk was 158-58 in seven years at Memphis, 1979 to 1986, and the team went 31-4 the year it went to the Final Four.

Kirk had also been an assistant at Louisville.

In addition to vacating the Final Four appearance, the Tigers were forced to sit out the 1987 tournament after Larry Finch became coach.

Kirk was indicted by a federal grant jury on 11 counts of tax evasion, filing false tax returns, mail fraud and obstruction of justice. Witnesses testified at Kirk's trial that he scalped tickets and actively solicited kickbacks from tournament promoters.

At Colonial Country Club, the Men's Grill entertains a cast of characters, many of whom were close friends with Kirk.

"I'm sure for a long time people will look down the hall and expect to see him walking down," Doris Burchett said. "Typically that's the way he'd do it. Just come wandering in."

Tuesday, Kirk's friends reacted with shock and sadness to their friend's death.

"He was growing old with us," Al Parker said. "And unfortunately, he didn't make it as long as some of us did."

Cecil Rhodes said Kirk was popular a Colonial where he was known as a sports junkie who was 'just one of the guys,' instead of a coach who fell from grace.

"He was a nice guy, Rhodes said. "Supportive guy..encouraging guy...and a good friend."

For many at Colonial, Kirk's sudden death created a huge hole that won't soon be filled.

"It's tough," Dickie Gautreaux said. "My wife and I couldn't hardly talk last night. We're just still in shock."

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. The AP contributed to this story.