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May 21, 2013
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Robert Kirby, who spent 17 of his 28 previous years as an NCAA Division I assistant in the Southeastern Conference, has been recommended to join the University of Memphis men's basketball staff as an assistant coach, head coach Josh Pastner announced Tuesday. Kirby's hiring is pending approval of the University and Tennessee State Board of Regents.
Kirby, widely considered one of the most-respected assistant coaches in college basketball, comes to Memphis with nearly 30 years of coaching experience. He has been tabbed as one of the nation's top-25 recruiters by Rivals.com in recent years.
At his previous seven NCAA Division I stops combined, Kirby has been involved in over 500 victories and has been a part of 17 teams that earned postseason bids (10 NCAA, seven NIT). Kirby also coached against the Tigers while at Georgetown, Houston and Mississippi State and was 5-5 in those 10 meetings.
"We're excited to have Coach (Robert) Kirby join our staff," said Pastner. "He's one of the elite coaches in the country in both recruiting and on-the-floor coaching. He'll be great with our guys in establishing relationships with them.
"Coach Kirby is also from Memphis, and it's good to get him back home. We're honored that he's a part of our staff."
The Memphis, Tenn., native returns home to the Bluff City after spending the 2012-13 campaign on Johnny Jones' staff at LSU. Kirby's other 16 years in the SEC were at Mississippi State (1989-93, 1998-2010). In his lone season at LSU, Kirby helped the Tigers to a 19-12 overall record and a 9-9 SEC mark.
In between his time at SEC schools, Kirby spent two seasons (2010-11, 2011-12) on John Thompson III's staff at Georgetown. The Hoyas posted back-to-back 20-win seasons and earned two NCAA Tournament berths. In his two seasons in Washington, D.C., Kirby faced the Tigers three times, and the Hoyas won all three meetings.
Kirby had two associations with Mississippi State from 1989-93 under Richard Williams and 1998-2010 under Rick Stansbury. In his two stints combined, Kirby was a part of the Bulldogs program that had a 319-192 record (.624 winning percentage) and won two overall SEC titles (1990-91, 2003-04), five SEC Western Division crowns (2002-03, 2003-04, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2009-10) and two SEC Tournament championships (2002, 2009). The Bulldogs had nine 20-win campaigns, including a school-record 27 wins in 2001-02 (27-8 record), with Kirby on the bench.
Kirby helped guide Mississippi State to 12 postseason appearances, including five straight from 2001-05. The Bulldogs made NCAA Tournament in 1991, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 and the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1990, 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2010.
During his tenure in Starkville, Kirby helped develop some of the top players in Bulldogs history. Kirby coached 15 All-SEC players (26 total selections), one SEC Player of the Year, one SEC Newcomer of the Year, one SEC Defensive Player of the Year (three times) and five SEC All-Freshman Team players.
The Tigers faced Kirby and Mississippi State once in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Memphis and Mississippi State met in the NCAA Tournament South Region second round in Little Rock, Ark., with the Tigers winning a hard-fought 77-74 decision.
In between his two Mississippi State stops, Kirby spent five seasons on Alvin Brooks' staff at the University of Houston (1993-98). The Cougars, which compiled a 54-84 record in those five years, faced Memphis six times, and the Tigers won four of those encounters. The last four meetings with Kirby on the Cougars bench came with both Memphis and Houston as Conference USA members.
Prior to his first stint at Mississippi State, Kirby served as an assistant at Pan American University (1982-83; student assistant), Arkansas College (now Lyon College; 1984-85), UALR (1985-88) and Southeastern Louisiana (1988-89).
His three-year stop in Little Rock proved a successful one, helping guide the Trojans to a combined 73-29 overall record and a 43-7 Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) record. UALR posted three-straight 20-win campaigns, won back-to-back TAAC regular-season titles (1985-86, 1986-87) and the 1986 TAAC Tournament crown, and made three-consecutive postseason appearances (1986 NCAA; 1987, 1988 NIT).
The 1985-86 Trojans made history with the program's first NCAA Tournament win, upsetting Digger Phelps' Notre Dame squad 90-83 in the first round. UALR's 1986-87 team, which advanced to the NIT semifinal round at New York City's Madison Square Garden, still holds the school single-season wins record with 26 (26-11 record).
A two-year basketball letter-winner and 1983 graduate of Pan American University (now known as Texas-Pan American) in Edinburg, Texas, Kirby was a starting forward on the 1980-81 Broncs club that earned an NIT berth. He averaged 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a senior, before serving as a student assistant coach in 1982-83.
Kirby began his collegiate playing career at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., where he helped lead the Raiders to the 1978-79 junior college national championship as a freshman and a fifth-place national finish the following season.
Kirby, who graduated from Whitehaven High School in Memphis, is married to the former Valerie Jackson of Memphis. The couple has two daughters, Katrina and Robin.