- GEN - Kirk: 'The Slickest Rat in the Barn'

Outside the Lines
Monday, June 4
Updated: June 5, 1:20 PM ET
Kirk: 'The Slickest Rat in the Barn'

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – When he's in a good mood, which is often, The Coach opens his daily show on AM-560, WHBQ with a little country.

"Drive an old Ford pickup truck ..." Dana Kirk sings, not particularly well. "I get my whiskey from a Dixie Cup ..."

Kirk, who coached the Tigers for seven seasons, from 1979-80 to 1985-86, has surfaced as a talk-radio personality. He is equally adept at discussing the Vancouver Grizzlies' seemingly imminent move to Memphis, the wonder of Mother's Day, his spotty golf game and, of course, college basketball. He is not as eager to discuss the career of Dana Kirk.

I get chill bumps thinking about it," he says. "Sometimes I'll pull out a tape – I guess we've all done this – and look back at the things that have made us happy.
Dana Kirk, remembering the glory days of Memphis State basketball
"We're not getting into any negativity," Kirk said when asked by ESPN for an interview. "I don't do negativity."

There was a time when Kirk owned Memphis. And, in retrospect, that might have been part of the problem. With his one-tank-of-gasoline recruiting program, he convinced so many talented local athletes to attend Memphis State that the Tigers became a national power. His teams went 158-58, a sterling winning percentage of .731.

Trouble was, Kirk and his assistants cut corners and abused their power. Only six of Kirk's 60 four-year scholarship players earned degrees, including just two of 12 on the 1984-85 roster. Some of the most talented players wound up driving luxury cars supplied by boosters. Government witnesses testified in his 1988 trial that, among other things, Kirk accepted money from boosters for players, sought kickbacks from tournament promoters and sold game tickets for up to five times their face value.

Kirk was forced to leave after the 1985-86 season and the NCAA eventually slapped a two-year probation and a one-year postseason ban on Memphis State and forced the school to return nearly $1 million in tournament earnings. Kirk served four months in a federal minimum-security prison in Montgomery, Ala., but has landed, as always, on his feet.

One of his many friends – Kirk's name-dropping ability is, frankly, astonishing – owned a string of radio stations, so today he hosts the "Dana Kirk Show." He drives a big SUV, lives in a gorgeous home full of art and candles, is married (for the second time) to a beautiful lawyer and is finishing up his second book. The working title: "The Slickest Rat in the Barn."

There are times when Kirk allows himself to lapse into nostalgia. "I get chill bumps thinking about it," he says. "Sometimes I'll pull out a tape – I guess we've all done this – and look back at the things that have made us happy."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for

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