Former Co-Lin basketball coach M.K. Turk passes away
WESSON – The college basketball world has lost a legend Saturday with the passing of former Copiah-Lincoln head coach M.K. Turk. Turk was not only a former coach at Co-Lin, he was an alum who suited up for former head men’s basketball coach Alton Ricks from 1960-62.
Turk was a native of Bardwell, Ky., and first found out about Wesson, MS, through a letter from Ricks.
“I had talked to a former teammate of his who was playing at Northeast Community College,” said Ricks. “He told me that he had a friend back in Kentucky that could really shoot, and I should recruit him. I sent him a letter telling him that Co-Lin was interested in recruiting him and he promptly sent a reply that he wanted to visit. That’s how M.K. came to Wesson.”
Turk would be named All-State during his playing career in Wesson and would sign with Livingston University, now known as West Alabama, after graduating from Co-Lin. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Livingston and coached high school basketball in Georgia before returning to Co-Lin as the men’s head basketball coach in 1968.
Turk posted a record of 118-39, with two MACJC state championships, during his time in Wesson from 1968-74. His success on the court was matched only by the influence he had on his players. Co-Lin Athletic Director and Women’s Head Basketball Coach Gwyn Young suited up for Turk from 1969-71.
“He made you play hard, he studied the game, and he demanded you do your best and that’s why he was such a successful coach,” said Young. “He was a big influence on me becoming the coach I am today.”
Mississippi College Athletic Director Mike Jones served as a captain for Turk during his playing days in Wesson from 1971-73. Turk would later hire Jones as an assistant coach. For Jones, a former men’s head coach at Co-Lin himself, the bond with Turk went far beyond the basketball court.
“I met Coach Turk soon after I lost my father,” said Jones. “He helped fill that void in my life. My two years playing for him were two of the best years of my life. M.K. was a special person in so many ways.”
Turk would leave Co-Lin for a spot as an assistant at the University of Memphis, and from there he would take the job that brought him into the national spotlight, men’s head basketball coach at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Turk, who coached the Golden Eagles from 1976-96, is the winningest coach in Southern Miss history posting a record of 301-266. His 1987 team won the NIT championship and his teams made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 1990-91.
Although his greatest success came at Southern Miss, Turk has continued to be a strong supporter of Co-Lin over the years. He was named Co-Lin’s Alumnus of the Year in 1981 and was inducted in the Co-Lin Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. Turk was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Mississippi Community College Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
His presence in Wesson is one that will greatly missed by the Co-Lin family.
“No matter how successful he became or how much recognition he received, Coach Turk has always been extremely loyal and generous to Co-Lin, ” said Co-Lin President Dr. Ronnie Nettles. “We will miss him greatly and our thoughts and prayers are with Katrina and his girls right now.”
Funeral arrangements are currently pending and will be announced as they become available.