One day and 1,403 miles removed from the NCAA National Championships in Oklahoma, Fred Turoff is sitting in his cluttered office making and studying a DVD of the national competition. Soon it will join the other tapes comprising an entire wall in his office, collected by Turoff in his 36 years leading the team.
Turoff has been the men’s gymnastics coach since 1976, the same year that Steve Jobs released Apple Computer’s first product, the Apple I. As Apple has gone from making computers with no keyboards to touch-screen phones, Turoff has guided the program to a transformation of similar magnitude.
When Turoff assumed his duties as coach, Temple had won two conference championships in 27 years. By winning the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference this season, Turoff delivered his 17th conference title as coach.
“It is like a dynasty,” women’s gymnastics coach Aaron Murphy said. “[Turoff] has been here forever. His name means so much within not only NCAA gymnastics, but within USA Gymnastics.”
Turoff’s name resides in not only the Temple Hall of Fame, but in the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame as well. Among active coaches, Turoff’s tenure is the second longest in the NCAA gymnastics field. With his experience greatening and age climbing, Turoff has no plans of slowing down.
“I am still having fun,” Turoff said. “I don’t have any thoughts at all of retiring. I am still enjoying myself going into the gym and it keeps me young.”
“People think I know [how long Turoff will coach] just because I am in the same gym with him,” Murphy added. “The truth is I don’t know. He is like the forever-lasting coach.”
While Murphy has coached the women’s team the past six years, he is no stranger to the men’s game. He competed for Temple under Turoff and was a nationally recognized gymnast. Murphy returned to be an assistant coach for the men’s team before switching to the women’s program in 2002. While nobody inside the program has pinpointed a possible successor to Turoff, Murphy could have a chance at the opportunity.
“I’m torn,” Murphy said. “I have had a lot of good experiences with the women’s team. I have been able to help them grow with their program and get them winning a little bit more. But also coaching the guys would be fun too. I came from this program, from this gym. If the position opened up I would have to do some heavy thinking.”
Murphy should have plenty of time to ponder the hypothetical situation. Among the recruiting class for the 2013 season is Evan Turoff, Fred Turoff’s only son. Fred Turoff said he’d like to be around throughout his son’s tenure.
“I will be here for at least four more years,” Turoff said. “I have no plans of retiring. I enjoy being here and especially since my son is going to be here my wife agrees that I should be here during his time as a student. As long as I am healthy and can continue I expect to be here.”
Evan Turoff is expected to enter the program and compete for a starting role in rings, his strongest event. While he also has desire to compete in three other events, he faces a challenge rarely seen in the collegiate level, the scrutiny of being the coach’s son.
“[Fred Turoff] might feel a little bit of pressure not to give his son too much attention and I think his son will not want to receive too much attention,” senior captain Chris Mooney said. “[Evan Turoff] is going to want to fit in with the team and not feel like he is different from anybody else.”
Fred Turoff said he feels no pressure having his son on the team. As Evan Turoff, he added, would take care of that on his own.
“[Evan Turoff] puts the pressure on himself because he wants to do very well,” Fred Turoff said. “I want everyone to do well. He is not going to get special treatment from me.”
While Fred Turoff has an established personal relationship with Evan Turoff, his personal relationship with the entire team sets him apart from other coaches. At the beginning of every season Fred Turoff has an individual meeting with each team member. At the meeting, goals for the year are discussed, both in athletic and academic accomplishments, an area Fred Turoff stresses. At the end of each year, a second round of individual meetings are held to discuss the progress of the year and the development of the student athlete.
“It is extremely important for the coach and the individual gymnast to sit down because we normally don’t get that one-on-one time,” Mooney said. “That one-on-one time is very important to establish a relationship with him and to set the page with what we need to do next year.”
Through Fred Turoff’s guidance, Temple gymnastics has been elevated to a national scale, and his impact on the program is unmatched.
“Regardless of how much longer he decides to coach, when he does retire the sport of gymnastics is going to lose a coach that is one of the best coaches that is out there today,” former Temple Hall of Fame and All-American gymnast Bill Roth said.
While Fred Turoff has become the face of Temple gymnastics, the story for his total impact on the program is still being written.
“That No. 36, that’s a lot of years,” Murphy said. “I don’t think anybody could ever match him. His passion for the sport allows him to do this. Everyone knows him as the guy who strives for perfection.”
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.