By Wil Crews
Former Loachapoka High School boys’ basketball coach Larry Dichara and former Auburn High School track coach Donald Wayne Murphy were inducted Monday as members of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame’s 31st class. The ceremony took place at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Spa Convention Center.
Dichara and Murphy were a part of the 12-member class which also included: contest official and former AHSAA Director of Officials Mark Jones; track and cross country coach David Dobbs; girls’ basketball, volleyball, tennis and softball coach Jana Killen; football coaches Stacy Luker; Jimmy Perry; and Danny Powell; basketball coaches Johnny Shelwood, Tim Smith and Ronnie Stapler; and selected in the “Old-Timers’ Division” with Murphy, basketball coach Wade Robinson.
Murphy, who passed away in 2001, was born in 1941, graduated from Tallassee High School in 1959 and attended college at Troy State University and Auburn University. He received his degree in 1963 and later earned his master degree.
He immediately went to work in 1964 as a teacher and track coach at Auburn High School. The Tigers won the state title in 1965, 1966 and 1967. The much admired teacher and coach was the commencement speaker for the 1968 AHS senior class. Also well respected nationally, he coached Alabama’s track team at the National Jaycee Track Meet in Iowa in 1968.
He became the director of Auburn University’s Memorial Coliseum from 1968-1979 but returned to Auburn High School as head track coach in 1984 where he remained until becoming the Auburn City Schools’ first city-wide athletic director in 1993 and remained through 1998.
A strong man of character and faith, he served as a deacon at First Baptist Church, was a leader in several service organizations including Boy Scouts and Bass Masters and became a swimming official, helping to bring the Olympics to Auburn University in 1974-75.
Always striving to improve track and field, he developed the indoor runway for long jump, triple jump and pole vault for Sico Stage Company, which was patented and produced by that company.
Dichara, 62, a graduate of Foley High School (1977) and Auburn University (1981), received his master’s in special education in and doctorate in education leadership in 2000.
Now the HR director of 2aUSA, an Italian die-cast company located at Auburn, he started out his career as a teacher and boys’ basketball coach at Loachapoka High School in Lee County. He later became the principal — continuing his role as boys’ basketball coach and eventually moved to the Lee County Schools Central Office. He served as the superintendent of Phenix City Public Schools from 2004-13 and was chief administrative officer and acting superintendent for Selma City Schools from 2014-15.
As a coach, his teams compiled a 115-75 record over a six-year period with back-to-back Class 1A state championships in 1988 and 1989.
He also served as radio sports analyst for Auburn University’s Lady Tigers basketball team for 15 years.
He has spent much of his professional life working with the State Department of Education providing training across the state for principals, athletic directors and school safety officers on how to develop a comprehensive safety and emergency action plan for athletic venues and extracurricular events. He also served as AHSAA external facilitator for its five-year strategic plan and also served as the Lee County Schools coordinator of Special Olympics for four years.
Dichiara also served on the National Youth Sports Program Advisory Board and has had a number of articles published concerning school safety.
The Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association, the coaches’ wing of the AHSAA, oversees the Hall of Fame. A selection committee comprised of coaches, administrators and media representatives made the selections from a very impressive list of 62 nominations.