Thursday, November 15, 2012
- by B.B. Branton
"Murray Arnold elevated Chattanooga basketball in the D-I era, not with a bang, but with an explosion. All of us who have followed have to try to live up to his standard. We talk to our kids about leaving a legacy. Coach Arnold left his legacy in a huge way.”
--- UTC head men’s basketball coach John Shulman
It was the early-1980s and one of the grandest eras in UTC basketball history.
Fans religiously flocked to the corner of East 4th and Mabel for the Gerald Wilkins and Willie White Show who captured newspaper headlines and the hearts of Chattanoogans and had McKenzie Arena rockin’ and rollin’ to the tune of 20-win seasons and NCAA and NIT appearances.
But it was UTC coach Murray Arnold who kept everyone on key and masterminded the 135 wins in six seasons along with three Southern Conference tournament titles and trips to the NCAA (3) and NIT (2).
Arnold who has the highest win percentage (74%) of any UTC basketball coach died Wednesday of cancer at the age of 74 in Deland, Fla.
“Coach Arnold was as good a basketball mind as you could imagine,” said former UTC basketball beat writer for the Chattanooga Free Press Mark McCarter who now writes for the Huntsville (Ala.) Times.
“He was the guy who helped the Mocs basketball program make that great transition from D-II to D-I. I cherish those three years I covered the team (1980-82).”
Arnold came to UTC in the fall of 1979 after one year as an assistant coach at Mississppi State and after a 13-14 record his first year, then ran off a school record five straight 20-win seasons.
Murray Arnold took the very successful Division II Chattanooga basketball program, and immediately made it a competitive, NCAA tournament caliber Division I program," said Mack McCarthy who coached at UTC after Arnold and won 243 games in 12 seasons with five NCAA appearances, including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 1997.
" Coach Arnold was able to do that because he was one of the brightest and most innovative people ever to coach the game. All of the great successes of Mocs basketball trace their history to the foundations that Murray Arnold built."
In an era comprised of four future NBA players - Wilkins, White, Russ Schoene and Nick Morken – first Maclellan Gym and then McKenzie Arena (which opened in Nov. 1982) were the places to be on Saturday and Monday nights. Murray Arnold teams attracted more than 9,000 fans to McKenzie Arena eight times in a three-year period.
“Murray was one of the best floor coaches I have ever seen,” said former Chattanooga Free Press sports editor Sam Woolwine. “Without question, he was as good a college basketball coach as there was in the country.”
Following the great D-II era and a national championship in 1977 under Ron Shumate, Arnold led the Mocs to its first NCAA D-I appearance in 1981 (a loss to Maryland), the school’s first D-I tournament win the next season against N.C. State and NIT wins against Georgia in 1984 and Clemson and Lamar in 1985.
“Looking back at a two-year span, coach Arnold beat NC State in the 1982 NCAA tournament and the Wolfpack win the NCAA championship the next year,” said McCarter.
“In 82-83, the Mocs hosted two defending national champions at McKenzie Arena – losing to the NCAA champs North Carolina, Michael Jordan and Baylor School grad Jimmy Braddock (Dec. 21) and beating NCCAA national champs Tennessee Temple two months later.”
With his wife by his side in life and on the bench keeping offensive stats, Arnold won at every level as he guided Birmingham Southern to 159 wins and three NAIA national tournament appearances, led the Mocs to the NCAA and NIT tournaments and coached Okaloosa-Walton Community College (Fla) to the NJCAA national title in 1995.
Arnold was also a head coach at Western Kentucky and Stetson (Fla.) and was an assistant with the Chicago Bulls for one season (1985-86).
Funeral arrangements are pending.
contact B.B. Branton at email@example.com