By Sean Fernandez
It was reported on Tuesday that former Syracuse assistant and current Eastern Michigan University Head Basketball Coach Rob Murphy would take a job with the Orlando Magic, but it turns out that the move won’t happen after all. Murphy issued an official statement with the university yesterday, pledging allegiance to his current position.
Just over a year ago, Rob Murphy left Syracuse to become the head coach at Eastern Michigan. He took big man DaShonte Riley with him, and although Riley had to sit out because of NCAA transfer rules, the Eagles had a successful season. An overall record of 14-18 wasn’t all that spectacular, but a 9-7 record in the MAC (Mid-American Conference) was good enough to give EMU their first West Division title in school history.
Things were looking good for Rob Murphy and the Eastern Michigan basketball program, up until a few days ago; when a report came out that the once-Syracuse assistant would leave his job at EMU to take a job with the Orlando Magic. That position was apparently in the scouting department, a specialty of Murphy. In his seven years at Syracuse, he played a role in the recruitment of Kris Joseph and Wesley Johnson.
Becoming a member of an NBA staff has probably been a dream for Murphy (even if it is with the “rebuilding” Orlando Magic), but it would’ve been a nightmare for his reputation, the EMU program, and the aforementioned DaShonte Riley, who left SU to stay with his favorite coach.
Although a job in the NBA is a good opportunity for Murphy, leaving would’ve put EMU in a difficult spot, attempting to find a qualified coach who’d be able to take over at a moment’s notice. The current players would have to get used to a new coach’s system for the second year in a row, which could cause problems on (and off) the court, and that new coach would have to become accustomed to everything in the short amount of time left before the season starts. EMU would’ve been in some serious trouble.
That concern lingered for a few days, but we now know that Murphy will be back at EMU for a second season. No one can be sure of the actual reasons that caused him to stay put, but the monetary penalty he would’ve faced likely played a role. He would’ve had to pay the university $210,000 (his base salary for a year) for breaking his contract.
Murphy is back at EMU, but there will almost certainly be a ripple effect following the report that he was on his way out. Questions will arise about his motives and commitment to the program, which could also have a negative impact on the team.
From his time at Syracuse, we know that the 39 year-old Murphy is an all-around great guy. He is a genius when it comes to basketball, and he is a class act in every sense of the word. But will his current administration/players and future recruits see him in that light?
Murphy had a great relationship with all of his players at SU and I’m sure he does at EMU, so this probably isn’t an issue. However, they could feel a bit betrayed if they thought their head coach would pack up and leave so suddenly. I have no way of knowing, but that could be a concern.
The more pressing concern here is on the recruiting front. I’ve never had a college coach knock on my door attempting to convince me that his school is the right place for me, but if I was given that opportunity, I’d be looking for a coach that would help me grow as both a player and as a man throughout my four years under his watch, not someone who I think could leave any day when given another offer. The real effect it has (if any at all) won’t be known for a few years, but Murphy will have to sound pretty convincing in order to land quality recruits.
Again, we all know Murphy is a great guy and a brilliant coach. He earned his spot as a Division-I head coach and he has plenty of successful years ahead of him, whether they’re at EMU or elsewhere, that’s for sure.
In summary, this move would’ve put a smudge on his reputation, but by staying put; he has applied a hefty dose of Spray N’ Wash and can remove the stain with a little scrubbing. In simpler terms, he just needs to keep doing what he does, which is being a damn good basketball coach that comes up with some pretty catchy tunes.
Below is the video of his "Shut it Down" remix, which became the motto for the 2010-2011 Orange.