Turner’s lasting legacy came from mentoring young Mpls.
Ben Johnson still has the trophy won in the early 1990s. It came from the Clyde Turner Basketball Education Development Camp which was an annual summer event in south Minneapolis.
“I was named the ‘outstanding shooter’ in the Clyde camp,” Johnson said Tuesday. “My jumper must have fallen because there were some outstanding young players that week.”
Turner came from Champaign, Illinois, and was a star at nearby Robert Morris Junior College. He was recruited to the Gophers by new coach Bill Musselman for the 1971-72 season, along with two other JUCO stars – Ron Behagen and Bobby Nix.
The fight with Ohio State on January 25, 1972 put a scarlet letter on this team, even though it won the Gophers’ first Big Ten title in 25 years. He has also produced some notable Minnesota transplants.
Turner would top the list, with his decades of working with the city’s youth – three weeks in the summer with the camp, and far beyond as a social worker, with Big Brothers Big Sisters, with the PACE Foundation. for children, etc.
Charles Hallman, a teacher, coach, columnist for the Minneapolis Spokesman-Recorder, 2022 inductee into the US Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame, was an organizer of those camps and a close friend of Turner for decades.
He was one of a reasonably sized group of people who visited Turner on Monday to say goodbye. Clyde died early Tuesday morning of cancer and other issues at the age of 70.
“Clyde was a huge believer in second chances,” Hallman said. “A kid would make a mistake and say, ‘I think he can be a good kid. We’ll give it another chance.'”
Hallman laughed and said, “But a third chance? No. A child had to take advantage of the second chance.”
Turner wasn’t a kid, he was a young man, but he took a second chance to become an under-the-radar hero in the same adopted hometown where his team, the 1971-72 Gophers, had been. deemed wicked.
The brawl at Williams Arena against Ohio State became a national scandal. The flames for it were fanned at major outlets, and neither was then-powerful Sports Illustrated.
Turner was a secondary figure in this fight. His friend Corky Taylor was a lighter, along with Behagen. Corky also settled in Minneapolis and spent decades mentoring young people before his death in 2012.
It was then reported that Taylor and Luke Witte, the Ohio State star and the Gophers’ initial target in the brawl, had met and become friends.
“Corky asked Clyde to come on the first meeting,” Hallman said. “And Clyde said to me, ‘Luke, Corky and I… we all three shared our souls and we were able to bury him. “”
Turner Day Camps began in the mid-1980s and lasted until 2019, before being halted by the pandemic and then Clyde’s poor health. There were also week-long stay camps that were held at Lake Sylvia in Annandale until 1995.
Tara Starks, now a women’s basketball coach at Hopkins, was among the first girls to attend Turner’s camp. She was also among his visitors on Monday.
“Clyde was a father figure to me,” Starks said. “I had a father, but I had another with Clyde – another male role model. Two years ago I applied for the job at Hopkins and asked Clyde to write a cover letter. recommendation, and it was done… on the spot.
“He was a comfort figure to me. And I was talking to my daughter, Tee Tee, this morning. She was upset, but she also spoke well about Clyde: ‘He just had that grandpa vibe.'”
Hallman said it goes back to when Tara worked in labor camps and other jobs, and she brought Tee Tee with her.
“We had Tee Tee there doing exercises when we were 6 years old, two years under our limit,” he said. “I always tell Tara, ‘Clyde was your free babysitter.'”
This season marked the 50th anniversary of the 1972 champions, where Clyde was a standout striker – ‘Bald Bomber’ to many, for his early hair loss and ability to shoot from distance at 6-7.
There was no public honor here to mark the anniversary, but most of the members – including Dave Winfield, Jim Brewer, etc. – came to town a few weeks ago and joined in for a celebratory dinner at JD Hoyt’s.
Pat Montague, manager and owner of Hoyt’s, knew virtually all of them from the Cajun chops served in the past. “Clyde wasn’t well, and he had been here a little over an hour, but, man, these guys were happy to see him,” Montague said. “And the stories that night…the meeting should have been on TV.”
Clyde’s attitude about basketball, kids and life could be best told in a photo he kept framed and in plain view for 30 years. It was in the Star Tribune in 1991 and showed 12-year-old Kolliepaye Kpowulu walking past Turner for a lay-up during a camp session at Washburn High School.
“We were like, ‘That kid walked past you like he was Michael Jordan,'” Hallman said, “and Clyde would just have a big smile.”