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The Early Word: Jersey swap, sick days & sanitation and a transmission transition

Hello and happy Friday to all my morning people! Today is Jan. 14, and we’re celebrating/mourning the retirement of one of my favorite local journalists, Tom Bailey. He always manages to find the most interesting stories (though he didn’t think Justin Timberlake was going to be any big deal), and we are definitely going to miss Tom, big time, here at The Daily Memphian. 

Today also marks the beginning of this year’s UCA & UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship in Orlando and guess what 15-time National Champions will be competing at 10 a.m. this morning

Tonight, we’ve got The Science of Beer at the Museum of Science and History, Bill Hurd and his jazz ensemble performing at the Germantown Performing Arts Center, and the Grizzlies at FedExForum. 

Also, The Early Word will be off Monday, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and will return Tuesday morning.



A sanitation worker hauled a garbage can to his truck in a Midtown neighborhood during 2020. With this latest coronavirus surge, sanitation is struggling with low staffing. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Dumpster fire? For two days this week, the area’s number of new COVID-19 cases was less than 1,500. But, even though that’s about 800 fewer than the seven-day average, Memphis COO Doug McGowen said it’s still too early to say the peak has passed. During yesterday’s weekly Shelby County coronavirus briefing, McGowen also mentioned that city services, specifically sanitation collection and parks programming, are being impacted by the number of staffers either sick or in quarantine. And that we still have more people with COVID in our hospitals than ever before. 


Coleman Taylor Transmission is leaving the Edge District as the urban neighborhood continues changing from industrial to more residential and entertainment uses. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Transmission transition: The latest sign of the Edge District’s evolution is maybe the lack of one. The Coleman Taylor Transmission shop will soon be no more and, in its place, could be three acres of new apartments. The developers behind the apartments that rose from the former Wonder Bread Bakery — The Rise Apartments — are now planning another project, The Rise on The Ravine. And as Tom Bailey (sniff) writes, the development team has “been trying for five years to add the Union Avenue-fronting Coleman Taylor Transmission property to its holdings, and last year made an offer that chief executive Nick Coleman could not refuse.” 

MCS to SCS to MSCS? As I noted in passing yesterday, Shelby County Schools won’t be that for long. The SCS board is looking at, and seems in favor of, a five-year transition that would change the district’s name to Memphis-Shelby County Schools. The majority of the schools within the district were once under the Memphis City Schools umbrella, and the name change is seen as a way to reflect the system’s “geographic location and the families we serve.” 


Collierville High Schools Certified Medical Assistant Jaimee Lapham (left)  has taken most of the samples at Collierville Schools’ COVID-19 drive-thru testing site for district students and staff. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

District starts own drive-thru: They might not be masking, but they are testing. Collierville Schools, which recently had to return its Collierville High School students to remote learning, received $2.5 million from the federal government and has been offering free, voluntary COVID-19 testing to its students and staff on the weekdays. It was the first of the municipal school districts to offer the testing, but Millington has begun a similar program and Germantown plans to start one soon. 




Matt Barnes

One of “the brightest young defensive minds in college football” has joined the University of Memphis coaching staff. Matt Barnes is the Tigers’ new, 35-year-old defensive coordinator; he comes from Ohio State, where he was the interim defensive coordinator — but it’s a relatively new role for him. In his 13 years coaching football, he’s been the special teams coordinator, offensive coordinator, linebackers coach and the secondary coach.




Memphis Grizzlies teammates celebrate their 116-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

11 for 12: With a career high of 17 rebounds and 15 points last night for shooting guard John Konchar, including a dagger 3-pointer with one minute left, the Grizzlies cinched a 116-108 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It gave the bears their 11th consecutive win and against a team that, well, they suffered a pretty big loss to — 138-95 — in November. Before the game, about 250 children had their jerseys retired at FedExForum. You may remember that Grizz star Ja Morant, No. 12, stared down a kid earlier this week who was trying to give him a high-five. Because said kid was wearing a Golden State jersey. So the Grizzlies gave children under 12 the option of exchanging a rival jersey for one of their own and, as Drew Hill writes, “there were unworn Steve Nash jerseys, Kevin Durant jerseys, LeBron James jerseys and, yes, even a beat-up Michael Jordan Bulls jersey.”


A Coletta’s Italian Restaurant employee prepares a pizza — though maybe not a barbecue one — for pickup at the South Parkway location in 2020. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian file)

Never have I ever: Sometime in the fairly recent past, Daily Memphian food writers Jennifer Biggs and Chris Herrington talked about the Memphis culinary institutions that they have somehow overlooked in their adventures in eating. And, lo, an idea for a series was born. Today, Jennifer Biggs admits to never trying Coletta’s barbecue pizza and rectifies that. Coletta’s signature dish began in the early 1950s when the restaurant was ready to make pizzas but Memphians weren’t ready to eat it. Today, Coletta’s makes their own barbecue sauce for the pizza and puts a pound and a half of pork on top. 

Game off: A local, upcoming boys basketball tournament has been canceled due to health and safety protocols. The Cam Payne MLK Classic, to be hosted by Lausanne Collegiate School, was slated to include teams from Bartlett, Briarcrest, Cordova, East, Munford and White Station. However, Lausanne’s basketball coach says next year — the classic’s 10th — will be its “biggest event yet.” 




Honestly, that might be better ... 

Y’all have a restful weekend and a significant Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we will see you back here, Tuesday, bright and early.