A coach, evangelist Billy Graham once said, will impact more people in one year than the average person will impact in an entire lifetime.
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, which will be inducted in Jackson this Saturday night, has impacted literally thousands upon thousands of people.
Where the MSHOF Class of 2018 is concerned, this is the year of the coach. This year’s class includes: football coach Billy Brewer, basketball coach Anna Jackson, basketball coach and athletic director Mike Jones, basketball coach Lafayette Stribling, track and field coach Joe Walker Jr., and boxer Archie Moore.
And I know what some readers are thinking: One of those, world champion boxer Archie Moore, wasn’t a coach. But you would be at least partially wrong. When Moore retired as a record-setting boxer, he also became a boxing coach or trainer, as they say in fight lexicon. Among the boxers Moore coached at one time or another: famed champions Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.
As for the other five: Together, they totaled more than 175 years in the coaching business, turning out championship teams at nearly all levels of sports. More than that, they impacted lives. But don’t take it from me. Listen to some of the people they impacted.
This is eight-time world champion and Olympic gold medal broad jumper Brittney Reese of Gulfport talking about Walker, the man who coached her at Ole Miss. “I look up to him a whole lot, not as only a coach but also as a father,” Reese said. “He’s a father figure to me. . . . He’s played a major role in my life, and he’s the main reason why I’m accomplishing the things that I’m accomplishing right now. He’s a wise man and a great father figure.”
This is College Football Hall of Famer Wesley Walls, speaking about Brewer, whom he played for at Ole Miss: “Everybody who played for him loved him. He always had your back. He made you feel like you could do anything. He treated you with respect. He wanted the best for his players, all his players, no matter their abilities or their race or how highly they were recruited. At different times, he was like your father, like a close friend, like your brother or like your head coach. I’ll tell you this. He had so much to do with the player and man I became – whatever that is.”
This is Jackson State’s new women’s basketball coach Tomekia Reed talking about Anna Jackson, the lady who coached her at Murrah High School in Jackson: “She was tough, but she was caring. She cared about us as people, not just players. She just cared.”
But let’s be honest. These highly successful coaches aren’t going into the Hall of Fame just because they cared, or because they respected their players, or because they were father figures. Coaches go into halls of fame because they win. These coaches won and won big.
Jackson won a record nine state girls basketball championships at Murrah. Jones’ teams won 77 percent of their games and numerous championships at Mississippi College and Copiah Lincoln Community College. Stribling’s high school teams won more than 1,000 games before he moved to Mississippi Valley State where his teams won four SWAC championships and to Tougaloo where he took teams to three national tournaments in a five-year stint.
Before Walker won big at Ole Miss and Florida and then Ole Miss again, he coached championship teams at Mississippi College where he mentored another Olympic medalist and Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Larry Myricks. Brewer, who starred as a player in football at Ole Miss, won at Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech before rebuilding the Ole Miss football program beginning in 1983. Four times, Brewer was voted SEC Coach of the Year.
Moore is the one 2018 inductee far better known as an athlete than for coaching. Born in the Delta town of Benoit, he held the world light heavyweight boxing crown for more than nine years, a record, and also holds the professional record for knockouts with 132.
Moore and Brewer will be inducted posthumously in ceremonies at the Jackson Convention Complex. All others will attend, along with many of those athletes they impacted. For tickets or details, go to msfame.com or call 601-982-8264.
Rick Cleveland (email@example.com) is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist.