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MOSSIE MURPHY'S CRUSADE
Myron Cope
January 28, 1963
Most alumni are proud of their schools, but the smothering kindness of this loud, indefatigable fat man almost kills the Holy Ghost Fathers of Duquesne
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January 28, 1963

Mossie Murphy's Crusade

Most alumni are proud of their schools, but the smothering kindness of this loud, indefatigable fat man almost kills the Holy Ghost Fathers of Duquesne

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The same year Mossie recruited Somerset he went after a husky, 6-foot-6 Pittsburgh boy named John Cegalis, who had announced he would enter Fordham. As Cegalis remembers it: "Mossie says to me, 'John, I don't want to try to change your mind about Fordham. I think you've made a wise decision. But you've got to remember that you're just a kid from a middle-income family and you won't have any common ground with those sophisticated New Yorkers. Now look here, I'm going to give you a chance to acquire a reputation under Coach Manning, who is going to be one of the top coaches in the country.'

"And after he says that," Cegalis continues, "he says, 'When are you coming over to enroll?' Not 'Have you decided to come?' but 'When are you coming?' So I went over and enrolled."

And Fordham angrily severed basketball relations with Duquesne.

Mossie is not above giving his recruits the impression that he is a Very Important Person. Lunching with Coach Manning and a gangling high school star in the dining room of the Pick-Roosevelt Hotel one day, Mossie spied then-Governor David L. Lawrence at another table. Seizing his teen-age prospect, Mossie bounded over to the governor with outstretched hand and bellowed, "Hi, Governor! How's your son these days?"

"Just fine," replied the governor. "And how are you?"

Mossie warmly introduced his recruit to the governor, then strutted back to his table. The prospect was excited about meeting the governor for the first time. Mossie should have been just as excited—he had never met the governor, either.

When Mossie teams up with Coach Manning on proselytizing trips into the hinterlands, the two men match as beautifully as ham and milk of magnesia. Manning is a pale, austere, tight-lipped man of 34 who has been likened in appearance and vivaciousness to Andrei Gromyko. He dines on whole wheat toast and skim milk, admonishes wives of his friends to cook wheat-germ oil into their meat loaves and, when asked by his wife to pick up cigarettes on the way home, purposely forgets. Manning also regards Mossie's girth with revulsion. "Red absolutely tortured me to go to a doctor for a checkup," says Mossie. "So I finally went and the doctor found I have a heart condition. Red was delighted! He's rooting for me to die!"

Meanwhile, parents of high school prospects have found that a visit from Manning and Murphy is something like being double-teamed by Hyman Rick-over and Oliver Hardy.

"Red never takes a kid till he meets the mother and father and explains to them exactly what Duquesne's like and what he's like and how demanding he is and how demanding the studies are and that there will be a lot of weekends when the kid won't be able to come home because of the study load," says Mossie. "He tells them, 'It's not a very pretty school.' In other words, he tries to talk them out of it."

The implausible pair traveled one night to the town of Belle Vernon, Pa. to recruit a handsome, sturdy, 6-foot-9 lad named Walt Lautsch. For openers, Manning told Lautsch's parents, "I think Walter is too fat and I'm going to try to get some weight off him. I don't think he's a very good basketball player, but I think I can make him one."

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