College Basketball: Ex-UA staffer tries to put NAU on track

2013-06-20T00:00:00Z 2013-06-20T13:15:18Z College Basketball: Ex-UA staffer tries to put NAU on trackDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

During his first season as the men's basketball coach at NAU, Jack Murphy would often walk into the locker room at halftime ready to address his team and make adjustments for the final 20 minutes.

But before he would do that, the coach who spent eight seasons in Tucson as a part of Lute Olson's staff, would check his cell phone. Oftentimes, he'd have a text message waiting from another former member of Olson's staff, Josh Pastner.

"Half the time I walked into the locker room, I'd have a text from Josh telling me something I needed to do differently or things we were doing well," Murphy said. "I'd go back to my phone, and I'd see a text that would say 'great layup' or something like that, and I'd have no idea what part of the game he was talking about."

Olson himself was at Murphy's home debut last season in Flagstaff and as a show of support for the Lumberjacks program, former Arizona Wildcats star Andre Iguodala bought season tickets.

The moral of the story? Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.

Murphy found himself back in Tucson on Wednesday night at North Restaurant at La Encantada as part of the NAU Coaches Caravan on the first of its three-city tour that includes stops today in Yuma and San Diego.

The Lumberjacks went 11-21 overall and 8-12 in the Big Sky Conference in Murphy's first season after a 5-24, 1-15 campaign in 2011-2012. Murphy served as a student manager, video coordinator, administrative assistant and director of basketball operations at UA from 1998 to 2006. He was also an assistant for Pastner at Memphis for three seasons.

The Star chatted with Murphy on Wednesday about his memories of being at the UA, what it's like being a head coach for the first time and several other topics.

What were some of the biggest differences of being a head coach after so many years in other roles?

A: "The refs listen to you more. As an assistant, I could scream and then look back and blame it on someone in the crowd. As a head coach, they know who it is. I have to learn to be quieter. Also, you have to have the tough conversations. Not every talk is going to be pleasant. You can't tell everyone yes. As an assistant, you can be more of a buffer after the head coach has the tough conversation. As a head coach, you have to deliver the news, both positively and negatively. There have been tough talks I've had to have."

How closely are you able to follow Arizona during the season?

A: "I was very close with Coach (James) Whitford. I know Joe (Pasternack) and Book (Richardson) very well. Obviously, I'm very close with Damon Stoudamire. I'll follow them even more now that he's here, and Sean (Miller) and I have gotten very close. I always root for the Wildcats when we're not playing them. I'm able to watch their games. Sean is such a good coach, you try to steal things from good coaches. You're always watching basketball so you can continue to get better."

How far do you and Damon go back?

A: "I've known Damon for a long time. I knew him for a long majority of the eight years I was here in Tucson. And then we worked together for a year in Memphis as assistant coaches. That was his first experience as a college coach. I think he'd be the first one to tell you those first few weeks on the job we spent a lot of time together. We grew very close that year in Memphis. He's one of my best friends in the business now. We talk, if not daily, every other day and bounce things off each other. He's a great friend and great resource."

Stoudamire and Miller will be speaking at the NAU Coaches Clinic in August; how big of a deal was it to get those two guys to come to Flagstaff for that?

A: "It was validation to get a coach like Coach Miller for sure. We had a great clinic last year with Coach Pastner. He's a dear friend of mine. We also had Coach (George) Karl and Coach (Mike) Dunlap as well. So, to get high-level college coaches this year is outstanding. It shows they really want to give back, and they don't mind helping out NAU. Damon is such a great friend, I didn't have to twist his arm too much."

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at 573-4330 or dberk@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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