HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - It was a tremendous Friday night at Hattiesburg High as the Tigers honored their two state title basketball teams from 1972 and 1974.
It was not only a night for reunions but one of recognition. Hattiesburg grad Greg Conner presented a plaque to Virgie Gilbert – the niece of his former head coach Johnny Hurtt.
Conner remembers Rowan High School integrating with Hattiesburg High School during the early 1970s and how the Tiger championship teams brought a community together.
“The team just gelled so well,” said Conner, a member of the ’74 team. “I think it just had an impact on the city. There was initially some resistance to integration but when the team just started exemplifying how to play as a team, I think the key is we showed that the city can work as well. I think it just influenced and united the whole city because the city got behind the team.”
Hurtt was the catalyst for those championship teams but he didn’t coach without talent. The Short brothers – Eugene and Purvis – helped Hattiesburg to a couple of state titles before going on to enjoy storied careers at Jackson State.
Both brothers were drafted to the NBA, but Purvis enjoyed the more fruitful pro career. Drafted 5th overall to the Golden State Warriors in 1978 – one pick before Larry Bird – Purvis averaged 17.2 points per game in 13 NBA seasons.
He remembers his early days with coach Hurtt as instrumental in his future basketball and personal life.
“It’s just an honor to come back and see a lot of old faces,” Short said. “Most importantly, why we’re here, we’re here to honor coach Hurtt. All of those life lessons that people talk about all the time but you really don’t understand until you get a little bit older, he instilled all of that stuff into us. I’m so honored and fortunate to have been a part of that.”