CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball program wasted no time making its mark on the national map upon its move to the Division I ranks in the late 1970's.
Murray Arnold had a lot to do with that.
UTC officials confirmed Wednesday afternoon the legendary Mocs' coach died Tuesday night in Florida at the age of 74.
Arnold went 135-46 and led Chattanooga to five 20-win seasons from 1979-85, posting a 74.6-percent winning percentage that stands as the best in the program's history. The Mocs won four Southern Conference championships in his six seasons, and made three NCAA Tournament appearances and two trips to the NIT.
"He elevated Chattanooga basketball in the DI era, not with a bang, but with an explosion," said current Mocs' head coach John Shulman. "All of us who have followed have to try to live up to his standard. We talk to our kids about leaving a legacy. Murray Arnold left his legacy in a huge way. He will always go down as the father of Chattanooga basketball."
Arnold led the Mocs to their first-ever NCAA Tournament in 1981, an 81-69 loss to Maryland in the first round. UTC returned to the big dance and upset North Carolina State the following year before falling one point shy of the Sweet 16 in a 62-61 loss to Minnesota.
Following a 13-14 record in his first season, Arnold went 121-33 over the next five years before leaving for an assistant coaching position with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA. He later coached at Western Kentucky and Stetson before retiring in 2000.
Current Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh followed him at Stetson upon his retirement.
"Basketball lost one of its great ambassadors," said Jim Reynolds, the Voice of the Mocs. "He had two great passions in his life: He loved his wife Ann Conn and he loved basketball. If he had a third thing, I don't what it is.
"He put UTC on the Division I map and his teams in the early '80s will always be among the greatest teams in school history."
Arnold's 1982 squad tied Chattanooga's school record with 27 wins, and his 1983 team finished the season ranked No. 15 in the final Associated Press poll for the highest end of season ranking for a SoCon team in the league's history.
He also recruited and coached some of UTC's greatest players, including Willie White, Gerald Wilkins, Russ Schoene, Nick Morken and Stanford Strickland. All four members of his 1980 recruiting class (White, Shoene, Morken and Stanford) are in the UTC Hall of Fame, and three (White, Shoene and Morken) went on to become NBA draft picks.