Hundreds pay tribute to USM's M.K. Turk
Hundreds, including an emotional Clarence Weatherspoon speaking from his heart, paid tribute to Hall of Famer M.K. Turk Tuesday in Hattiesburg.
The 43-year-old Weatherspoon, tears rolling down his face, spoke eloquently of the respect he and other players had for Turk, who created a family type atmosphere for Southern Miss basketball.
Turk, the winning-est coach in USM basketball history, died Dec. 6 after a long illness. He was 71. Weatherspoon, who went on to score nearly 11,000 points over a 13-year NBA career, was one of dozens of Turk’s former players in attendance.
Former players Casey Fisher, Larry Boyd and Derek Hamilton joined Weatherspoon in eulogizing their former coach. USM radio broadcaster John Cox also spoke movingly. In attendance were former Ole Miss coach (and Turk’s college teammate) Ed Murphy, Mississippi College athletic director Mike Jones, ex-Mississippi State coach Richard Williams and Jacksonville State University coach James Green.
“People who weren’t around back then just can’t imagine the situation M.K. inherited and the kind of job he did for this basketball program here,” Williams said. “He was a great coach and a great man.”
All the speakers talked about Turk’s coaching ability, his compassion for his players, his keen sense of humor and his often fatherly advice.
“I considered myself lucky to have played for him,” said Weatherspoon, a three-time Metro Conference Player of the Year, back when the Metro included Louisville, Memphis, Depaul, Marquette, Cincinnati and other powerhouses.
Turk took USM to eight post-season tournaments, including the NCAA Tournament in Weatherspoon’s junior and senior seasons and the 50th NIT Championship in 1986.
Rick Cleveland column.