Kirk led Tigers to 1985 Final Four

Updated: February 16, 2010, 10:53 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Dana Kirk, who coached Memphis State to the 1985 Final Four and five consecutive 20-win seasons, died Monday in Memphis, a university spokesman said.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported Kirk died after suffering a heart attack.

Kirk was 158-58 in seven seasons (1979-1986) with the Tigers, who went 31-4 in 1984-85, when they reached the Final Four.

Kirk, 74, 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.

At about that time, Memphis State was found guilty of NCAA violations on Kirk's watch, which led to the university being forced to vacate its Final Four appearance. The school also was banned from the 1987 NCAA tournament.

Kirk arrived at Memphis State in 1979 and turned a struggling basketball program into a national contender. The Tigers were briefly ranked No. 1 in 1983.

"He did a magnificent job and was a great coach and helped create the image of Tiger basketball," Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson told the Commercial Appeal on Monday. Johnson said he would run into Kirk from time to time in recent years.

"He always talked Tiger basketball right to the end," Johnson told the newspaper. "I still had some of our boosters that think he walked on water. He had a strong following."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.