What a splendid night for the Final 4 Dogs, your MSHoF

Posted on: April 01,2016

The Final Four Dogs, 20 years later

The Final Four Dogs, 20 years later. (Photo by Phillip Hughes)

Rick Cleveland

Rick Cleveland

Your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum exists to extol and preserve the splendid sports history of the Magnolia State.
We do so without any tax support for operations for a 24,000 square foot museum that is normally open six days a week, 52 weeks a year.
So what better way to raise money to support this important cause than to celebrate important moments and people with events at the museum? That’s what we did on a stormy Thursday night at the museum.
The 1996 Final Four Mississippi State Bulldogs were celebrated before a packed house. There were many stories told, many hugs, much backslapping and a whole lot of laughter. By any measure, it was a smashing success.
This is what I found most interesting: Twenty years later, those Bulldogs, including Coach Richard Williams, talked more about the bonds, the lasting friendships and the camaraderie than they did the momentous victories over the likes of Kentucky in the SEC Championship Game and UConn and Cincinnati in the Sweet 16.
They were an eclectic mix: Dontae’ Jones from inner city Nashville, Darryl Wilson and Bart Hyche from far different neighborhoods in Alabama, a player each from Jackson Prep and Jackson Academy, and guys from all over small-town Mississippi, including 16-year NBA veteran Erick Dampier. They were coached by a former volunteer junior high basketball coach who was a self-admitted marginal basketball player on his Pearl High basketball team.
They became like brothers.
Twenty years later, they are still like brothers.
A public thank-you to Farm Bureau for serving as our title sponsor for the event. Farm Bureau has long been a supporter of your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Thank-you Henry Hamill.
Also a public thank-you to presenting sponsor Wier Boerner Allin Architecture, a growing, already highly regarded firm here in Jackson, making quite the mark in sports architecture. Among recent or current projects: the new state-of-the-art softball stadium at MSU, the renovation of Dudy Noble Field and the renovation of Mississippi Coliseum.
Also, a public thank-you to Mississippi State athletics and athletic director Scott Stricklin for continued support. And to Whit Hughes whose hustle in putting the program together rivaled his hustle 20 years ago was just invaluable. (The above photo was taken by his son, Phillip, a promising seventh grade basketball player, on my cell phone.)
Finally, thank-you to the 250 or so fans who packed our place last night. It was a special night. You made it that way.
Thursday was a double celebration for Coach Richard Williams. It was Richard Williams Day in Pearl. The street leading to the Pearl Municipal Golf Course, where Williams’ parents once worked, is now Richard Williams Way.
Good for Pearl. Good for him. He remains one of the best Xs and Os coaches ever, here or anywhere.

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