Dana Kirk was known as “The Suit” when he served as an assistant basketball coach under Denny Crum at the University of Louisville. He was quite a spectacle on the sidelines, often attired in duds one would expect of a carnival barker.

Think of a burley 6-foot-8 dude dressed in bold outfits, checkerboard patterns or with broad stripes. Kirk was quite a sight on the sidelines at Freedom Hall, with his wardrobe choices endearing him to U of L fans.

His popularity in Louisville quickly subsided, however, after he became head coach at rival Memphis State in 1979. He also dressed more conservatively at his new job.

Kirk, 74, died Monday night in Memphis where he coached for seven seasons, compiling a 158-58 won-lost record. He had five straight 20-win seasons including 31-4 in the Tigers’ Final Four year and 28-6 in his last season. He was fired after his team was placed on probation by the NCAA for recruiting violations. He was later found guilty of income tax violations.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

7 thoughts on “Dana Kirk Dies In Memphis”
  1. That’s sad to hear. I remember him well from my ball boy days at U of L. Then, he became head coach at Memphis State and turned it into one of Louisville’s best rivalries. I remember the Keith Lee days. Some of those games were headaches for us fans.

  2. Ron, it was a rivalry long before he went there. My wife and I’s first date was at a Memphis-Louisville football game in 1972, and there was a lot of heat in both basketball and football.

    1. I wish I would have had the chance to go to those games, Charlie. Seriously, I didn’t know U of L existed until 1974. Back then I was a Reds fan and a K. C. Chiefs fan. Now, college sports and keeping up with former UL players in the pros is my thing. Congrats on that relationship. Hope you have many more years together.

  3. Kirk really never got the credit or respect for the job he did at Memphis after he was fired. The causes for his firing were substantial and warranted..but he did compile an impressive record while he coached there and did quite a good job when he was Denny’s assistant from 1971-1976.

    Kirk showed up at my high school several times to watch future Louisville players perform against my high school team. He was hard to miss in the bleachers. He was there the night I set a one game rebounding record that stood for 24 years. I remember he came over to me and congratulated me on a good game and then went in search of a guy who had pretty much single-handedly beat us that night…named Rick Wilson.

    On Louisville, a passage from his 1998 book (Simply Amazing! The Dana Kirk Story):

    “I absolutely love Louisville. Loved it the minute I moved there. Gorgeous scenery, nice city and they eat, sleep, breath and talk basketball 365 days a year.”

    Some things never change. Rest in peace, Dana.

  4. I have a frat brother who made a terrible choice in moving to Memphis after college. He has ever since been a huge Memphis fan (that would be mistake #2). I emailed him and asked if he was going to go to Kirk’s funeral.

    His reply: No way. That jerk hit on Lori (his wife) and it was even when she was pregnant.

    Not to speak ill of the departed but let’s remember Dana was known not just as “The Suit” but also as “Kirk the Jerk.” Seemingly for good reason.

  5. Memphis fans can certainly carry a grudge. We were in Memphis a couple of years ago for the football game and were talking to some Memphis tailgaiters. Kirk came up in the conversation. Still a lot of bitterness and disrespect for his time there and the conditions he left under.

    I expect the same is being said now about Calipari.

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