In 1994, I was a sophomore at the University of Southern Mississippi and working between the student newspaper, the campus radio station and a local TV station. Somewhere along the way I met M.K. Turk, the greatest basketball coach in Southern Miss history.
Turk’s coaching ability spoke for itself. From 1976-1996, he compiled a record of 301-266 and won the 1987 NIT Championship. Turk won against the odds at Southern Miss and with few resources. He competed with the top programs in America and sometimes beat them.
But he was a better person. His players loved playing for him. Many shared their feelings on Facebook after hearing the news about his death.
We lost a great man today. M.K. Turk passed away this morning. He was a great coach and always took care of his players. He gave me the biggest opportunity of my athletic career and for that I will always be grateful. Rest in Peace Coach! – Steve Anderson, center
The experiences we shared while he was Coach helped mold me into the person I am today. The guys I met playing basketball at USM are more than my teammates they are my brothers. Thanks for the opportunity Coach Turk. Rest well. – George Scott, forward
My man!!! Coach was the best#!# – Damien Smith, guard
R.I.P. Coach Turk!! Thx a million! – Jimmie Floyd, forward
Turk also occasionally took care of those who didn’t play sports. People like me. After appearing on my radio show one night — a night in which he traveled to the on-campus studio around 9 p.m. — he invited me to go on a road trip with the team. Anytime. All I had to do was let him know when. That was a pretty cool invitation for a guy who would have loved to play college basketball but couldn’t dribble to his left.
At the time, I was dating a girl who attended the University of Alabama. Southern Miss just happened to have Alabama on the schedule and I loved visiting Tuscaloosa, so that’s the game I targeted: February 7, 1994. Coach gave me the green light and I boarded the bus with the team. I even got per diem money.
We left Hattiesburg on a cold afternoon and arrived in Tuscaloosa on a snowy evening. I ate with the team and was assigned a room with Steve Anderson, a 7-foot center who rarely played but watched a lot of cartoons. I learned that on the trip… and more from talking to him. Interesting guy. Steve ended up being a PIKE fraternity brother and is a friend to this day.
Southern Miss lost the game 65-60, but that didn’t matter. What a trip. It’s still one of the fondest memories of my college experience. Coach Turk obviously didn’t have to do that for some college kid he hardly knew, but he did. I doubt he ever gave that small act a second thought, but it’s something I’ll never forget.
He was one of the good guys… in everything. Coach, father, man.
When Turk left Southern Miss after the 1996 season, he was replaced by James Green. Then came Larry Eustachy and Donnie Tyndall. But Turk was the best.
My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and daughters.
> Southern Miss has compiled a number of reflective quotes from coaches and administrators. Click here to read.
> Click here for information about funeral arrangements.