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Johnny McMurry Inducted into High School Coaches Hall of Fame, by MHS Journalism

October 29th, 2020 by

1BCC17C4-54FB-47E2-BA87-EE9166B763E2The Arkansas High School Coaches Association inducted Johnny McMurry of Monticello into the 2020 Coaches Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 24, at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

F4DA3AC0-82CB-498D-A373-789F80D9267CCoach McMurry’s tenure as a football coach spanned 40 years, four schools, and countless players. McMurry’s coaching days began right out of college. He played defensive back at A & M College, and he was offered a position at Hope High School in 1969 coaching defensive backs as an assistant under Ronnie Higgins. He credits much of his success to the opportunity he had as a first-time coach. “As a young football coach, I had a certain arrogance about me. I was very confident because I had played DB in college, and now I was coaching it. It was a good position to be in at the time because my experience as a player transferred perfectly to what I was coaching.”

10B83EE1-BE70-487F-B941-7C29B80B1718Hamburg hired Johnny McMurry as defensive coordinator, and in 1976, he was hired as their head coach. The Lions won four conference championships under his leadership, but McMurry is quick to explain that it was not a lone endeavor. He listened to those around him to start and develop what remained a big part of his program for the entirety of his coaching career. He modeled strength training for his players after a program used by Wayne Smith, one of his assistant coaches at the time. The phrase “BE THE BEST” that radiated through all of McMurry’s programs was adopted from assistant coach Scott Ladeux, and it became and still remains the mantra at some schools where Coach Mac led his teams. In fact, today’s Billie football team under head coach Randy Harvey, who was an assistant for McMurry, has BTB printed on Billie helmets, on tshirts, and on walls to remind players of what is expected. This phrase transcends time and geography because of one man’s impact on those he coached and those who coached with him. “My intent was to help them [players] become the best they could be, so my assistant came up with the phrase, and it stuck. I’m intense. You are going to work. If you want your players to play with intensity, I believe you have to coach with intensity.”

After a three year stint in 1983 as head football coach and athletic director of Sheridan High School, McMurry was hired as head coach of the Monticello High School football team in 1986. McMurry led the Billies to the 8-AAA State Championship in 1994 with a perfect 14-0 season followed by three more conference championships in 2000, 2001, and 2004. McMurry believes his success should be attributed to one major piece of the winning puzzle: players. “Over the course of my career, I was blessed with guys who were willing to pay the price to be good football players. It was my job to take a below average player and make him average at least; take an average player and make him above average; take an above average player and make him the best he could be–including attitude and work ethic.” But those who coached with him believe that it was more than just the players that made McMurry’s career such a success; it was McMurry.

Currently, Greg Tiner is an assistant football coach at Springdale High School, but he spent the majority of his coaching career as an assistant for Johnny McMurry. Tiner coached with McMurry at three different schools, Hamburg, Sheridan, and Monticello. He is quick to explain that players bought into McMurry’s tough exterior and rigorous program because they saw the results: winning. “He has been very successful in three different schools. He leaves Monticello and goes to Watson Chapel and wins the conference championship. When you have success at multiple places, that tells you about a guy.” Tiner believes that players are only one component of a successful team; he believes success will not occur without the other component– a good coach. “There is a key ingredient I’ve seen in many successful football coaches from across the state. It’s focus. He [McMurry] has that key ingredient, and he is so consistent with it. Many coaches are offensive or defensive, but Mac did both most of his career. His knowledge was not just one side of the ball.”

Coach Mac finished his head coaching career in 2008 with a three year stint at Watson Chapel. His first season at Chapel, the Wildcats won the South AAAAA conference championship.

For the last six years of his career, he donned the titles of athletic director and dean of students for Monticello High School. But he never got too far from football. When Greg Tiner took over as head coach of the Billies and later Marty Davis, McMurry was always on standby if they needed assistance with the game or friendly advice from their mentor. Friendly probably wouldn’t be a word that those knowing him on the football field would use to describe McMurry, but his assistants knew another side of Coach Mac. Marty Davis spent close to 20 years working with McMurry. He describes two personalities in one man. “He [McMurry] is extremely personable–giving, nice, and committed to his kids. He is quiet and laid back–more of an observer. But you hit that switch, and he’s a hundred miles per hour. He demands that from everybody he works with. He is driven and expects the people around him to be just as driven.”

Saturday night, that drive led McMurry, his family, and many former assistants, including Tiner, Davis, Harvey, Smith, and Buck James (current head coach of the Bryant Hornets), to the Hot Springs Convention Center. They were excited to honor their mentor and excited to have a chance to all be together to enjoy the side of McMurry that not everyone gets to see. On Saturday night, Greg Tiner knew they would get to see “the professional side where work is work, and he [McMurry] is stern and focused,” but they would also get to see the “off the field side where Mac is a different type of guy and will joke a lot more.”

Coach Mac’s long career and immeasurable success in football and in the lives of young people was celebrated Saturday night. He was surrounded by suits and ties and congratulatory words that made a man who feels most comfortable on the football field feel quite uncomfortable in a dining hall. “I don’t want people to think I even deserve to be in the hall of fame. I feel very blessed, and I don’t know if I deserve to be there, but I’ll take it.”

Coach Johnny McMurry may no longer be physically on a football field on Friday nights, but his influence remains on many football fields around the state of Arkansas. Whether you played for him, coached with him, or taught with him, there’s a little of Coach Mac still walking the halls of numerous schools, still yelling from the sidelines on Friday nights, and still working in many communities all around the state.

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One Response to “Johnny McMurry Inducted into High School Coaches Hall of Fame, by MHS Journalism”

  1. Dr Steven Hand says:

    I can never imagine playing football at MHS with Coach Mac being there. Looking back on it I have nothing but respect for Coach. He truly taught me to dig deep in practice to have poise and BTB so in the 4th quarter we could win. I didn’t realize until I got older, it was part of life he was teaching us. This man helped mold me into who I am and will always have respect for him as a Coach, but more importantly as an outstanding person. Thank you for everything and Congratulations!!!! You do deserve it and certainly earned it.

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