Mississippi Sports Hall of Famers bask in spotlight

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2005

VICKSBURG — Outside the Vicksburg Convention Center, the starswere shining brightly as a brisk northerly wind whistled across themighty Mississippi River. Inside the Convention Center, starathletes, coaches and former stars were enjoying their evening inthe spotlight. Some of them actually sparkled.

Friday night marked the official induction of eight new membersfor the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. It was a time of happyreunions with former associates, players coaches and friends.

This column’s primary interest was M.K. Turk, former men’sbasketball coach at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Turk advancedto even greater success at the University of Southern Mississippi,leading the Golden Eagles to the NIT championship in 1987,

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Yes, my dear, Southern Miss really had an outstanding basketballprogram. Once upon a time, Turk’s teams received back-to-backberths in the NCAA’s Big Dance.

Turk retired in 1996 and the USM hasn’t been the same sincethen. He compiled 300 victories in 20 years at USM. He hadinherited a program that went winless in 24 games in 1971-72.

Turk returned to the Co-Lin scene in 1968 as head coach. ABardwell, Ky., native, Turk was recruited by Co-Lin coach AltonRicks out of high school and played for the Wolves in 1960-62,serving as team captain. He later starred for Livingston (Ala.)University and was named MVP.

Remembering his first tour of the Wesson campus, Turk said,”There was three inches of snow on the ground in Bardwell, when Ivisited Co-Lin. When I got to Wesson, kids were running around inT-shirts. I thought, ‘This is the place for me.'”

He married his college sweetheart, Katrina Cade of Loyd Star.They have two married daughters who live in Hattiesburg, near theirhome.

My first basketball season (1970-71) at The DAILY LEADER led tomy first encounter with Turk. This man wrote the book on publicrelations. For obvious reasons, Co-Lin received a lot of positivepublicity.

Mullen Gymnasium was often packed to capacity to watch Turk’sWolves perform. He was a dynamite coach who recruited goodbasketball players.

After winning the state and regional championships in 1974, Turkaccepted an assistant coaching position with Memphis StateUniversity, serving under Wayne Yates. Two years later, he wasapplying for the USM job.

Local USM alumnus Don Driskell was instrumental in bringingTurk’s coaching abilities to the attention of USM athletic directorRoland Dale. The rest is history. Sellout crowds filled Reed GreenColiseum. Basketball was a fun experience at USM and Turk won withMississippi players.

A van full of Co-Lin faithful made the journey to Vicksburg forthe induction ceremony. Athletic director Gwyn Young took care ofthe driving. His wife, Velesta, went along for the ride, plus Altonand Christine Greenlee, Mike McIntyre, Bobby Britt, Co-Lin men’sbasketball coach Dennis Sims and yours truly.

Other friends and supporters of Turk were also present at thebanquet. Former Co-Lin president Dr. Billy B. Thames was there,plus Coach Ricks, Coach Mike Jones and his wife, Jane.

Jones, now AD at Mississippi College, played for Turk at Co-Linand coached under him at USM. Young also played for Turk. McIntyre,current men’s tennis coach at Co-Lin, played tennis for Turk whenhe once served as tennis coach at Co-Lin.

43rd Annual Sports Hall of Fame Awards

Sponsored by the Jackson Touchdown Club, the 43rd Annual SportsHall of Fame Awards Banquet is a popular event. Like the annualspring migration, many former Hall of Fame inductees return for thereunion.

Also inducted were basketball coaches Van Chancellor (Ole Miss,Houston Rockets) and Charlie Rugg (Belhaven), football standoutHanford Dixon, (USM/Cleveland Browns), sportscaster Bill Goodrich(deceased), football player/coach Bobby Franklin of Ole Miss andNorthwest Community College, football player Hal Easterwood ofMississippi State, and championship golfer Joe Iupe, Jr. ofCanton.

The TD Club presented its Amateur Athlete of the Year award tomiddle distance runner Tiffany McWilliams of Mississippi State andthe Professional Athlete of the Year Award to former USM star ToddPinkston of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com