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The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will include some of the most successful coaches – in a variety of sports – in Magnolia State history. In my view, several were long overdue.
Introduced Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, they are former Ole Miss football star and head football coach Billy Brewer; long-time Mississippi College head basketball coach (now athletic director) Mike Jones; nine-time State Champion girls basketball coach (Murrah High) Anna Jackson; Lafayette Stribling, who won several state championships as a high school coach and seven SWAC championships at Mississippi Valley State; and Joe Walker, Jr., who coached Olympians and All Americans in track and field at Ole Miss.
Also voted into the MSHOF Class of 2018 is the late Archie Moore, the longest reigning world light heavyweight boxing champion of all-time, who recorded 132 knockouts, the most in professional boxing history.
The Class of 2018 will be inducted at the annual induction banquet on July 28, 2018 at the Jackson Convention Center.
A little about each:
• Brewer, a member of the Ole Miss football team of the century, played quarterback and defensive back, punted and held for placekicks on some of the most successful Rebel teams (1958-60) in school history. Then, as a head coach, the Columbus native was four times named SEC Coach of the Year. He began his coaching career at his alma mater (Columbus Lee) and compiled a 70-17-2. Said Brewer: “On your bucket list, this honor is at the top of your list. This is something I have hoped to achieve in my life and now I have.”
• Jackson quite possibly is the most successful high school girls basketball coach in Mississippi history. Under Jackson, Murrah was a perennial powerhouse. She won 80 percent of her games with a record of 692-167. She was the McDonald’s All-American coach in 2004-2005. Said Jackson, smiling: “Before I got this call, I wondered if I needed to come out of retirement and win nine more state championship and then maybe I would get in.”
• Moore, who held the world light heavyweight championship for just short of a decade, was born in the Delta town of Benoit. Nicknamed The Mongoose, he was born Archibald Lee Wright and moved to St. Louis at an early age when his father abandoned his family. On Sept. 21, 1955, Moore faced the great heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano at Madison Square Garden and knocked Marciano down in the second round. The referee’s famously slow count gave Marciano a chance to recover and the champ eventually won a decision to remain undefeated. Moore also fought champions Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali. Said Billy Moore, Archie’s son who was present for Monday’s announcement, “My dad was born in Benoit, Mississippi, and he never hesitated to let people know he was from Mississippi. People would say he was from St. Louis, but he would always correct them. My dad is in every national and international boxing Hall of Fame but he would be very, very proud to be in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.”
• Jones, now in his 15th year as athletic director at Mississippi College, compiled a 436-130 record over 16 years as head basketball coach there. His teams reached the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 three times. A native of New Hebron, Jones, as an assistant coach, recruited many of the players who brought Southern Miss to basketball prominence under M.K. Turk, a Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer. Jones also was highly successful as head coach at Copiah-Lincoln Junior College. Jones thanked his former players, his supporters and his family but had special praise for Turk, saying, “M.K. Turk taught me everything I know about basketball and about life.”
• Stribling, surely the best-dressed coach in Mississippi history, coached basketball for 55 years at both the high school and college level. He gained national attention at MVSU coaching the 16th seeded Delta Devils to a near upset of No. 1 seed Duke. He already was a member of the Mississippi Association of Coaches, SWAC and MVSU halls of fame. Said Stribling, chuckling, “I’m so happy to be here. At my age (83), I’m happy to be anywhere. I’m here because I’ve had great players, great parents and great supporters. God has blessed me. …”
• Born in Oxford, Walker played freshman basketball at Ole Miss before transferring to Mississippi College where he lettered in basketball, cross country and track and field. The son of heralded track and field coach Joe Walker, Sr., Joe Jr. followed his dad’s footsteps coaching championship athletes and future Olympians at several schools, most prominently Ole Miss. His athletes earned All-America designation 124 times. Among them: Olympic greats Larry Myricks and Brittney Reese. Said Walker, “You start searching for the words to describe this feeling, and I can’t describe. Boy, it’s just overwhelming. You don’t get into coaching for individual awards, but I sure wouldn’t give this one back.”