/The son of a Syracuse street cop, Ed Murphy left an indelible mark on Mississippi

The son of a Syracuse street cop, Ed Murphy left an indelible mark on Mississippi

Murphy’s impact was multiple on Mississippi. Murphy spent his first two years at Copiah–Lincoln where he shared a room with M.K. Turk, the future Southern Miss coach legend. They were close friends throughout their lives, even when they coached each other in the NIT. Murphy, a young assistant coach at New Mexico State under Lou Henson, recruited Mississippi along with Rob Evans. Evans would go on to become the Ole Miss’s coach and be a lifelong friend. We’ll be discussing that more later. He beat Alcorn Hall of Fame coach Davey Whitney to win the Delta State job of Gerald Glass. Glass set records at DSU, then went on to Ole Miss, where he was All SEC. Murphy, future All-SEC point guard Roderick Barney, was not interested in recruiting him from Satartia. However, he inherited him from Ole Miss. This quote by Murphy about Barnes will reveal a lot about Murphy’s wit. Murphy stated, “Shows just how much I know.” I looked at Rod’s legs and pipestem and thought he wasn’t good enough to help at Delta State. But now Rod plays for me at Ole Miss, where he’s the best SEC point guard. Yes, I’m a genius.” Barnes, as you should know, was Rob Evans’s head coach at Ole Miss. There are many ways Murphy is intertwined with Mississippi basketball history. It is important to remember that, despite his loss record at Ole Miss basketball, he was an excellent coach. He was a champion at West Alabama, Delta State, and West Georgia. His 399 wins in the Gulf South Conference are an incredible record. He took his team to Starkville, where they defeated Bob Boyd of Mississippi State in Division II Delta State. It was true. It could be seen all over. The relationships between coaches, sports writers, and journalists who cover them can often become adversarial. Writers must tell the truth – both the good and bad. Murph, which was his nickname by friends, understood this. We were always good friends. I loved his company. You wouldn’t be able to not enjoy his company. One time, Turk took us trout fishing off the Gulf Coast. Someone had iced down an entire case of beer. Murph said, “This is great. But I don’t know how you two will drink it.” We were given fair warning. His Ole Miss team was once locked in a titanic battle with Mississippi State in Starkville. Ole Miss was leading by two points. Cameron Burns of State was fouled and the ball went to him. Burns missed the majority of his free throws on that day and went to the line to shoot 2. Murphy took three to four steps towards the State bench, attracting Richard Williams’ attention. He told Williams, “You know that he’s going make these,” Both were made by Burns, sending the game to overtime. State won. Murphy said later that “Sometimes you just know.” Joe Harvell was one of his key players and was unable to play in the SEC Tournament. Murph was asked by a person: What do you do if he is unable to play? Murph replied, “I’ll jump from that bridge when it opens.” He was a coach at Ole Miss in a time when there were many colorful names on the SEC basketball coaching staff. Wimp Sanderson in Alabama, Sonny Smith in Auburn, Dale Brown (LSU), Hugh Durham (Georgia), Eddie Sutton and Rick Pitino (Kentucky), Williams at State, and many more. Sometimes, post-game press conferences rivaled stand-up comedy. Murph was at Ole Miss for six seasons. He reached out to Rob Evans, his friend from Oklahoma State, when the end was near. Evans was an assistant at New Mexico State and had previously played under Murphy. He then coached Evans. They were very close. They lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, next to each other in a duplex. One time, Sean Murphy, Ed’s son and Rob’s godson, drove his tricycle towards a busy street. Evans saw the situation just in time and raced to the street to sweep the trike and the tyke up. This could have saved Sean’s life. Murphy laughed and said, “Spanked his skinny waist, too.” In the late ’60s and early ‘70s, State and Southern Miss started full-scale recruiting of black players. New Mexico State was making a living by recruiting black players in Mississippi. Evans and Murphy would work together to recruit Mississippi’s small-town kids, and have their base in Jackson. Evans once said to me, “As a Black person, I could feel the difference when it came across that bridge in Vicksburg.” I was nervous. I was reading the newspapers. Murphy stated that Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, and all the other names were known to me. It was terrible all across the South, but it was even worse in Mississippi. Rob could not stay at the same places I stayed. He could not eat at the same places I ate. Rob must have felt that way. It was something we talked about all the time. We discussed when and if it would change.” Fast forward to 1992, when Murphy realized that he had limited time at Ole Miss. Evans had helped Murphy to get the Ole Miss job. Evans and Gerald Turner, then-Ole Miss chancellor, were junior college classmates. Evans had called Turner, telling him that he had “Your next coach right there at Delta State.” Murphy, six years later, knew his time in Oxford was short. Evans was his friend and he did the same for Evans. Murph said to him, “I’m not going to do it here. But you can.” You should take on this job. I will help you in any way that I can. It’s time to have a black coach.” Evans was offered the job. He was appointed the University of Mississippi’s head basketball coach just 20 years after being afraid to cross the Mississippi River. He didn’t waste the chance. His buddy, who helped him to get the job, was there for him every step of the way. Evans was awarded two SEC West Division championships and went to two NCAA Tournaments. He then left to attend Arizona State. Murphy and Evans marveled at Mississippi’s changes over the past 20 years, since Murphy recruited the Magnolia State to New Mexico State. Through many conversations, I learned how much Murphy loved the changes in Mississippi. Murph, the son of a Syracuse street cop, first arrived in Mississippi to play junior college basketball. He quickly learned to love the place and its people. Murph loved the fact that his friend, a black man became the first Ole Miss basketball team coach to win a championship since 1945. He also enjoyed the fact that Evans’ former player, Barnes, was succeeded by Evans and was even greater success, winning the National Coach of Year award. Murphy made an impact. His last appearance was at M.K.’s funeral. Turk’s funeral was held in December 2013. Murph was very emotional. He said, “I loved that man,” to me. “M.K. “M.K. was a beauty.” Ed Murphy was a beauty. *** A funeral mass for Ed Murphy will be celebrated at 10:30 AM Monday, February 24, 2020 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Carrollton, Georgia. On Sunday, February 23, the Murphy family will hold a wake at the Irish Bred Pub of Carrollton for Mr. Murphy.