Blue Dream

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Not every student has floor seats at home basketball games, the NCAA investigating him during law school finals, and the CFO of FedEx texting afterward to persuade him to hire the school’s next head basketball coach. Blue Dream is the firsthand story of how Ryan Luttrell spent his days in class at the University of Memphis and his nights researching and influencing the school’s next basketball team. He religiously followed the team and one day decided to attend a practice with his 7-year-old son, Carter. 

They continued going to practices, and before Ryan knew it, Carter was playing alongside the team’s star, Derrick Rose, and Ryan was rubbing elbows with Coach John Calipari’s staff while playing nightly pickup basketball games with them in the team’s practice facility. It was everything a fan could want, as he watched the Tigers make it all the way to the national championship game. Overnight, he became friends with the new recruits and assistant coaches, and as a result, he was privy to the most intimate secrets of how Calipari and his staff worked and maneuvered in the underworld of recruiting. Ryan seemed to be the only outsider allowed into this world, and the information was flowing so frequently that he began reporting for several local news outlets, including one that became an ESPN affiliate. However, as the season ended, the beloved Coach Calipari left. Ryan was at a decision point: Leave with the Calipari dynasty or use his inside knowledge of the team and the politics of the program to rebuild the Memphis Tigers. 

Ryan had moved from being a fan to being an insider to now being an influencer of the entire program and began having daily meetings at Pastner’s new office. As the coaching staff learned that Ryan had an event-planning background from working at the Super Bowl each year, he saw an opportunity, and it wasn’t long before he started his own company and put on his first tournament, which featured the Memphis Magic. The Magic was a team loaded with All-Americans from Memphis, such as Joe Jackson and Tarik Black. Ryan had found a way to make money off his marketing and business talents while keeping Memphis talent locked in with Memphis basketball. Things were going so well that when it all played out, nine players from his tournaments ended up committing to and playing for the Tigers, including the city of Memphis’ newest prodigy, Adonis Thomas.

Then the NCAA changed everything, as it seemed convinced that Ryan coerced athletes from his tournaments to commit to Memphis. Over the course of three separate investigations (all of which he was cleared in), NCAA coaches stopped talking to Ryan, and his relationship with Pastner and his staff became more than strained. At the same time, Ryan began to see the effects that his involvement in this recruiting world were having on everyone around him, especially his now-11-year-old son, Carter, who was intertwined in the world of basketball, right in front of Ryan. Ryan began to realize that he wasn’t going to change the way that recruiting works for college basketball programs. He had to find a way out. He needed to wake up from this Blue Dream…

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