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Wilmington Tigers coach William Murphy dies at 74
Longtime MLK Center mentor, coach and director William Murphy died Sunday at age 74.
By Tom GradySports@StarNewsOnline.com
Published: Monday, October 19, 2009 at 1:11 p.m.
William Murphy III, a long-serving youth coach and retired director at the Martin Luther King Community Center, died Sunday at the age of 74.
Murphy was also the head coach of the Wilmington Tigers minor league football team, which is scheduled to play Saturday in the championship game of the Mason-Dixon Football League. This was his third season at the helm of the Tigers’ program.
Tigers board president William Bordeaux said a team meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon.
“The (players) that found out last night; it’s not good,” Bordeaux said. “They’re really taking it hard.”
The local coaching icon mentored generations of youth athletes at the MLK Center, as well as in sports such as Pop Warner Football and softball. While he was officially retired, he was called back into service part time to assist with the running of the center.Athletics coordinator Ryan Tunstall described Murphy as “irreplaceable” and said while he had symptoms of a cold or the flu last week, he was at the center working.
The cause of death had not been officially determined as of Monday afternoon.
“It’s just tough for everybody right now,” said Travis Adams, recreation manager for the City of Wilmington’s community centers.Tunstall said he has known Murphy for the past four years and worked closely with him at the center for the past year and a half. He noted that beneath a tough exterior was a kind heart.
“You don’t even have to get to know him, but just get a chance to talk with him,” Tunstall said. “You can just see his genuine concern for other people and how he really devoted his life, to me – from what I’ve seen – to trying to help people better themselves.”
Tunstall said he witnessed the level of respect afforded to Murphy, from trips with him to the grocery store and the number of people who approached him, to experiences in the MLK Center gym. Players who might have stepped out of line, even during adult-league games, needed only Murphy’s rise from courtside seat to get the message.
Members of the Tigers organization were stunned.
Running back Cameron Clinton described the coach as influential, tough and knowledgeable.
“He’s an icon to me, he really is,” said Clinton, whose father, Daryll Clinton, and uncle, Michael Clinton, played for Murphy with the Bears Pop Warner Football program.
“At first, I really didn’t believe it,” Clinton said. “I had a teammate call me (Sunday) and he was telling me a lot of guys was really feeling down. And we’ve really got to win this championship for coach Murphy.”
The Tigers won the MDFL South Division title with a 9-0-1 record. The league championship game against the Arbutus (Md.) Big Red is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Legion Stadium.
There will be a visitation from 4-8 p.m. Saturday at John H. Shaw's Son Funeral Home, 520 Red Cross Street. The funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Williston Middle School.