Remembering M.K. Turk | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Remembering M.K. Turk

M.K. Turk had 301 wins as head coach of the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

M.K. Turk had 301 wins as head coach of the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

Current Southern Miss head basketball coach Donnie Tyndall made a fitting tribute to former Golden Eagle head coach M.K. Turk at the end of USM's 75-65 overtime win against Georgia State. One of Turk's sports coats hung on an empty chair of the Golden Eagles bench and, when victory was certain, Tyndall walked over the chair and raised the coat in revelry and to celebrate Turk, who died Dec. 6.

Turk is, without a doubt, one of the top five college coaches in Mississippi history. He made Golden Eagle basketball matter after it was one of the worst programs in America.

Southern Miss hired Turk in 1976, and it turned out to be one of the best coaching hires in university history. Turk quickly turned around the USM program, taking it from wayward independent, to a member of the very competitive Metro Conference, to a charter member in Conference USA.

The Golden Eagles experienced a lot of basketball firsts with Turk at the helm. In the 1980-81 season, he led Southern Miss to its first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament with a 20-7 record.

Turk brought Mississippi its only Division I basketball championship by winning the 1985-86 NIT in the 50th championship of the tournament.

Southern Miss defeated La Salle 84-80 in New York City's Madison Square Garden to win the event.

He became the first coach to lead USM to a NCAA Tournament berth, in the 1989-90 season. Turk was also the only coach in Southern Miss history to lead the Golden Eagles to back-to-back NCAA appearances, returning to the tournament in the 1990-91 season.

Turk coached Clarence Weatherspoon, who went on to become the ninth pick of the 1992 NBA Draft, chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers. Randolph Keys was another great player Turk coached—the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Keys with the 22nd pick in 1988.

Before and after his coaching career, Turk received many honors. He earned the titles of 1885-86 Metro Conference Coach of the Year and 1986-87 NIT Coach of the Year. He is a member of the Southern Miss Legends Club, the Southern Miss M-Club Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

By the time Turk retired in 1996, he had led Southern Miss to eight postseason appearances, including two NCAA appearances and six NIT appearances. Turk retired with 301 wins—the most in Golden Eagles history.

In fact, Turk's 301 wins dwarf the records of any coach in Mississippi State or Ole Miss history. During research, the only coach I found with more wins at the Division I level was another Mississippi college basketball legend, Lafayette Stribling of Mississippi Valley State, who racked up 315 wins during his 22 seasons leading the Delta Devils.

In his 20 seasons at the helm of the Golden Eagles program, Turk made Southern Miss basketball matter more than it had before or has since. He left a legacy that subsequent coaches James Green and Larry Eustachy were unable to repeat.

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