Bob Boyd celebrated at memorial service

Bob Boyd, “Uncle Bob” to Mississippi State basketball fans during his time in Starkville, ranks as one of the favorite coaches I have covered in my nearly 50 years of writing sports in Mississippi.

Maybe that’s because Bob always seemed to have more fun coaching basketball than most of his peers.

Brought to Starkville by Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Carl Maddox, Boyd charmed Mississippians with his southern California cool and wit. He was named SEC Coach of the Year for the 1984-85 season.

Boyd, who first gained fame as a highly successful coach at Southern Cal, died at his home in Palm Desert, Calif., in January at age 84. He was preceded in death by his lovely wife Betty.

Though he spent only five seasons in Mississippi, Boyd left his mark. Three of his Bulldogs assistants included Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Richard Williams, who succeeded him as head coach, John Brady and Larry Eustachy. All became successful head coaches. Williams and Brady have guided teams to the Final Four.

“Without Bob Boyd, there would no Richard Williams at Mississippi State,” said Williams, who guided the Bulldogs to a 191-163 ledger from 1987-98. “He hired me, and he believed in me. I was a junior college coach that no one ever heard of, and when he decided to leave, he recommended me for the job.

“Coach Boyd was a very, very important person in my life,” Williams continued. “He was a great teacher who truly understood the game of basketball. Lots of people copied what he did and took notice of how detailed he was. Coach was a very, very smart person who knew a lot more than just basketball.”

Hattiesburg native Tim Floyd, son of Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Lee Floyd, counted Boyd as a close friend and mentor.

“Coach really is one of the great coaches in the history of the game,” Floyd said. “He just happened to coach at Southern Cal when John Wooden was the coach at UCLA and when you had to win your league to get to the NCAA Tournament. If he were coaching today, with the success he had at USC, he would be making $4 million a year with a lifetime contract. He was that good.”

When Floyd coached at Southern Cal, he made sure Boyd was properly celebrated there. He also leaned on Boyd for advice. In fact, Boyd closely followed Floyd’s UTEP teams until his death.

“He was a coach until the day he died,” said Floyd.

Boyd was a great one. He handed Wooden two of his infrequent losses at Pauley Pavilion. One of his Trojan teams won 24 and lost 2, both to UCLA. Back then, 24-2 and second in your league didn’t get you into the Big Dance.

“Bob Boyd was a champion in so many ways, on and off the court,” UCLA great Bill Walton told the Orange County Register at the time of Boyd’s death. “He set a standard of excellence. His teams were brilliant. They were fierce. They were proud.

“They were a tremendous team the whole time we were here. And there’s never been a great team without a great coach.”

After Boyd came to State, he took a Bulldog team to Los Angeles and beat his former team, the USC Trojans.

If you are wondering why all this comes up now, it is because a Bob Boyd memorial service was held Sunday in Los Angeles. Floyd and Eustachy were among the speakers. Bill Boyd, one of Bob and Betty’s three surviving sons, put together this video tribute. [tentblogger-vimeo 126047456]

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