University's brick-and-concrete campus nuzzles against a steep, congested
hillside known as The Bluff that overlooks Pittsburgh's skyline. At noontime a
jolly fat man of 27 named Maurice Thomas (Mossie) Murphy may be seen driving
his '57 Chevy down the hill. He appears to be alone, but he is not. Four bodies
lie curled like snails on the seats. They belong to Duquesne's head basketball
coach, John (Red) Manning, Assistant Coach John Cinicola, Publicist Richard E.
Sharbaugh and Assistant Publicist Clair Brown. Follow the course of the '57
Chevy beyond range of the campus and you will see the heads of the four
passengers jerk into view like so many jacks-in-a-box. The deal is, they are
going to lunch with this man Mossie Murphy but are petrified with fear of being
seen in his company by the university's higher officials.
Mossie happens to
be Coach Manning's top recruiter—"the best recruiter in the country,"
says backcourt performer Paul Kudelko, one of Murphy's human trophies.
University authorities, however, have volunteered no such encomiums.
"Whatever Mossie is doing," says Father James F. McNamara, a Duquesne
vice-president, "he is strictly on his own."
unequivocally devoted to his alma mater, Mossie has received the sort of
requital usually given suitors who have bad breath and heavy beards. Even Coach
Manning has been heard to shriek, "Get that fat boy out of my hair!"
Mossie, undisturbed, describes Manning as "an absolutely fantastic
coach," even though he did try to have him fired three years ago, when
Manning was in his second season as head coach.
That was the year
the Dukes lost twice to Class B Carnegie Tech and were humiliated by archrival
Pitt 75-44. "Pitt beating you, that's like your father turning
alcoholic!" cried Mossie. He phoned Publicist Sharbaugh and thundered,
"We've got to get rid of that man, he's awful!" Failing to obtain
Manning's head, Mossie relentlessly forced his recruiting services upon the
coach for the good of the school, and in less than three years has helped
snatch Duquesne basketball from utter despair to the point where last season
the Dukes won 22 of their 29 games and played in the National Invitational
which until the mid-1950s imported some of the finest basketball material that
New York and New Jersey had to offer, strives these days to quash any notion
that basketball dominates the school. The university administrators, therefore,
are leary of a person like Murphy, a fellow who persistently thrusts into their
presence winning players from such western Pennsylvania outposts as Pricedale,
Turtle Creek, Elizabeth and Beaver. Dozens of times school authorities have
called him to account for his activities. So great is Mossie's ability at
cajoling high school prospects, organizing varsity banquets and generally
seeing to it that Duquesne continues to win that the administration has
suspected the existence of a well-oiled alumni organization operating from the
strength of a prodigious slush fund. Once a directive was sent out ordering any
such moneys to be turned over forthwith to the university's general fund.
There is no
organization and no money—only Mossie.
Mossie Murphy has
a job as sales manager for a small industrial corporation, a 30-year mortgage
on a small suburban home and enough leftover change to buy his prospects a dish
of ice cream. Yet youngsters find him irresistible, for he is one of them, an
everlasting kid, a bouncy, undisciplined animal who would put gum on the
teacher's chair though it meant standing in the corner for a week.
The Holy Ghost
Fathers in charge of Duquesne blanch at the thought of Mossie representing
their university, however unofficially, for he is an exceedingly noisy and
combative fellow. At basketball games priests bristle when his voice is heard
ringing above the tumult with some irreverent preachment, i.e., "Belt that
stiff standing in the post!"
all his dedication to Duquesne, Mossie remains the only season-ticket buyer who
is not mailed an annual renewal form. "They all hope and pray," he
concedes, "that someday I won't show up for the games." The school
sells an average of only 80 season books per year, of which 10% are bought by
Mossie, yet he has never been able to purchase eight adjacent seats. Last year
he pleaded with Athletic Director Louis E. Skender: "Why aren't they all in
the same row?"
have 'em together!" snapped Skender.