Commentary

Fallen firefighter Louis Mulkey's magic takes Summerville to state title

Originally Published: March 1, 2008
By Wright Thompson | ESPN.com

If you read the story about Louis Mulkey and the Summerville High boys basketball team playing for the South Carolina state championship, you are not going to believe this.

Mulkey, you'll remember, was a fireman there in Charleston, and when he wasn't putting his life on the line, he coached football and basketball. The kids loved him, but when he died, they found a hole in their lives. Mulkey had always been there when things were down and when things seemed hopeless. Just a week ago, with the team's season on the ropes, the crowd at the semifinal game began chanting the coach's name: Lou-is Mul-key!

With his spirit in the air, the team rallied to win that game, earning a trip to the state championship game, which was held Friday night. Which brings us to this.

Fighting Fire With Football

The unspeakable tragedy that cost Louis Mulkey his life in a South Carolina fire opened Todd DeLamielleure's eyes to his ongoing love for football. Wright Thompson told DeLamielleure's story in an ESPN.com column that ran shortly after the June 18, 2007, blaze. Story

The game was close all night, back and forth, until the very end. Summerville held a 50-48 point lead when a player from Spartanburg caught the ball about 60 feet away from the basket, with time running out. The horn sounded. He heaved the ball toward the distant rim. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe he heaved it and then the clock sounded. With the entire crowd's hearts in their throats, the ball clanked around and went in. Summerville had lost.

But wait. The officials conferred. The Charleston newspaper, The Post and Courier, described Mulkey's boys as in tears. No one dared breathe.

And then … no basket! The official was waving off the shot, and pandemonium broke out in the field house. The Summerville Green Wave were 4A state champions for the first time ever. Afterward, star player A.J. Green talked about a coach who had made a difference in his life, a coach who would not be forgotten. He talked about Louis Mulkey.

"We love him so much, that's why we worked so hard," Green told The Post and Courier. "He's like my second dad. This win was dedicated to him. It feels so good. It feels so unreal. It probably won't hit me [until] the next day, in the morning sometime. When he took that shot, I was on my hands and knees praying to God that it wasn't good. And then when I saw that, I said yes, thank you, coach Mulkey and God."

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at wrightespn@gmail.com.

Wright Thompson | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) is a senior writer for ESPN.com and The Magazine. He has been featured in seven editions of Best American Sports Writing and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.