For only the second time since his departure in 1998, Mark Gottfried made the familiar drive over Kentucky Lake to return to the school that gave him his first job as a head basketball coach.
Forty-two former players and four additional former coaches were honored Aug. 15 at the CFSB Center during the first Racer Basketball Hoopalooza.
But it was Gottfried who served as the evening’s guest of honor.
Hired in 1995 after eight seasons as an assistant coach at University of California, Los Angeles, Gottfried spent three seasons leading the Racers. During his time as the Murray State head coach, Gottfried amassed a 68-24 record while winning three straight OVC championships.
Though Gottfried would depart for greener pastures at an up-and-coming Alabama program just after winning his third OVC championship in 1998, the current North Carolina State head coach still feels connected to Murray State basketball and was humbled to be honored at the event.
“I’ll always be connected to Murray State,” Gottfried said. “I loved my time here. I had three phenomenal years where I got to coach some great players. … It’s humbling. I have deep roots here in Murray. Two of my kids were born here. This place was a launching pad for my career, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without Murray State.”
Gottfried said he continues to follow the Racers each year, and still gets excited to see Murray State continue its winning ways.
“As Murray State wins, it just makes me proud every time,” Gottfried said. “There was a long run where teams were really good but weren’t advancing in the tournament. That was the one thing, Murray State needed to take that one more step. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to do that here. All of us who have been around the program are excited about that.”
Other guests included Jeff Martin, Bennie Purcell, Popeye Jones, Marcus Brown and Jewaun Long. Gottfried was also joined by former coaches Cal Luther, Ray Greene and Tevester Anderson.
Long, a 2012 graduate and member of the 31-2 team from two seasons ago, was honored to be in the same room as so many Racer greats.
“I’m just honored to be in the presence of all these great players,” Long said. “Guys like Bennie Purcell helped start it.
“As one of the more recent players, I can tell you we all wanted to keep that tradition going and we wanted to do it for the guys before us because we knew they were watching.”
The event concluded with a golf scramble the next morning. Planning has begun for the 2014 Hoopalooza.