Teleconference Transcript for Northern Arizona Head Coach Jack Murphy
STEVE SHAFF-NAU SID: We’re going to start off the conference with a comment from Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos about the great news for Northern Arizona University today and introduce our new basketball. I’ll take it over to Dr. Campos.
LISA CAMPOS: Thank you Steve, hi this is Lisa. First I’d just like to say that we are so pleased. This is a great day for NAU Athletics, for the basketball team, and having Jack Murphy lead this program. It was a really competitive process, there was a lot of interest in this position. A lot of people saw that, despite the record from last season, there are a lot of winners on this team and we can really move this basketball program forward, and we know that Jack is the right person to do that. If you look at his background, obviously he has learned an immense amount from great coaches, from Lute Olsen to George Karl and Josh Pastner he has a great background. What’s really exciting is that he knows this area; he’s from Las Vegas, and he just really knows this region and I think he will be a tremendous recruiter and a coach as well. We’re happy to have Jack, and if I can answer any questions regarding this hiring I can do so now.
Why Jack? What impressed you most about Coach Murphy?
CAMPOS: I can’t name just one thing because he’s so impressive. If you haven’t had a chance to meet Jack, when you do, he’s just the most positive, energetic person, he’s going to really engage this community, so just a person first of all. Anyone who tells you anything about Jack talks about his integrity, its about how positive he is and about what a people person he is. Then you look into coaching and the recruiting and the background he has and the people he has worked for, so he’s just the total package for us.
How difficult was it going through the process and having to do it in such a short time?
CAMPOS: It was difficult the fact that there was just so much interest. There were a lot of quality guys that wanted this job, but it really came down to having the overall package and having someone that I felt like was going to be able to learn and grow together and someone I envision having a great relationship with, and I for sure see that with Jack.
Did you bring many people in for interviews?
CAMPOS: We did. We brought in seven folks for in person interviews.
Did his age—I know he will be one of the younger Division-I coaches—did that concern you at all, or did you feel it could work for his advantage?
CAMPOS: Yeah, I felt it could work to his advantage; it wasn’t a concern at all just given his maturity level his experience again with the people he has learned from; there is nothing in Jack’s history that would ever give us cause, so no the age was not a concern, and like you said it could be advantageous in working with young people.
Lisa, you had to like the fact that he was younger—we have two young and energetic people to lead NAU into a new chapter of NAU Athletics.
CAMPOS: You’re right, and like I said me and Jack are going to grow together, and we have the passion and the energy to move the athletic department forward.
Did it help that he was coaching under another young coach in Josh Pastner in his previous job?
CAMPOS: Yeah, in the interview we talked about the things he’s learned from Josh, and one of the advantages for Jack is that he’s been there from Day One from Josh in learning what it’s like being a first time head coach. But then again, he’s learned a lot from his NBA days and from his Arizona days.
SHAFF: Any other questions for Lisa? [Pause] Alright, at this time I would like to introduce Northern Arizona University’s new head basketball coach Jack Murphy. We have some great quotes on our website from former NBA players he’s worked with and former NBA coaches as well as some of his fellow coaches he’s worked with during his career if you would like to access those. At this time, Coach Murphy if you could give us an opening statement about the news today and joining the NAU program, then we’ll take questions.
MURPHY: I’d first like to thank everyone for participating and taking part in this teleconference, and my first thanks goes to, obviously, Dr. Campos, to Lisa, and President Haeger for seeing a vision in me and allowing me to be an ambassador to Northern Arizona University. It’s very humbling, I’m overjoyed, it hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m excited fior what lies ahead. I feel that my experience in the past of being around three of the best coaches in the game—a Hall of Famer in Lute Olsen, a future Hall of Famer who’s right on the doorstep in George Karl, and maybe the best up and coming head coach in Josh Pastner, who has really prepared me for this day—it’s not going to be without its challenges. There are times when we’ll have to dig deep, and think positively in those situations. I feel like I’m prepared to lead this program athletically, academically, and socially, and really help usher in a new day—not a better day, but a new day—in NAU men’s basketball, and I’m excited about that.
Congratulations, welcome to NAU, and the first question I have for you is what drew you to apply for the head coaching job at NAU.
MURPHY: Well Tee, I appreciate the question, and quite honestly it was easy. Right when I saw that there would be an open position I went to Coach Pastner and said that NAU would be the perfect fit for me. I grew up in Las Vegas, Nev., which isn’t very far away, I spent summers of my youth in Prescott (Ariz.) and the Prescott area, I know the area very well, a large number of my friends that I grew up with went to NAU, I have been on NAU’s campus for men’s basketball games in the past, for graduations, and for weddings actually. So I’ve spent a lot of time in Flagstaff, and a number of years in Arizona, at the University of Arizona, and it just seemed like the perfect fit for me and at the right time. I really felt that it was a job that set up perfectly for me and my family, to get back into an area where not only I can recruit, but in general feel comfortable with the future. I love Flagstaff, I love the surrounding areas, and it’s not just Flagstaff’s university, it’s all of Northern Arizona’s university, so I really feel comfortable with that part of the country and that part of the state in particular. And that’s what drew me to the job originally.
Coach, you were a late hire and you’ll have to hit the ground running, we know you’re a great recruiter, but you really have to get to work right away, so what’s your first order of business in recruiting and getting this program rolling and meeting with the players?
MURPHY: Well I’ve gotten all the players’ phone numbers of the current team, so right after this call—because obviously the news of my hire became public not long ago—I’m going to reach out to each one of those young men individually and introduce myself to them. I know a little bit about them just through watching film and tape and studying some things from this past season and years past. I know we have a large number of seniors coming up in their final year, so I want to make that a successful one, and you know, really get them acquainted with me. In terms of the recruiting at large, it’s an important part of the recruiting season, it’s really coming down to crunch time. It’s a contact period starting tomorrow, the spring signing period started yesterday, so as you said we really have to hit the ground running. It’s going to be difficult to know exactly what our needs are, but right now I’m just trying to reach out to student-athletes that share my vision for NAU, that want to come and be passionate about basketball, be passionate about being a student at Northern Arizona University, and really look to improve athletically and socially, and academically.
You have a background here working in Arizona with Coach Lute Olson, you worked with George Karl, obviously Pastner at Memphis, there’s a lot of NBA players that you’ve also worked with, so tell me what did you learn recruiting wise as an assistant coach and just as a person basketball-wise from Coach Olson, Coach Pastner, and Coach Karl?
MURPHY: Well, from Coach Olson there’s maybe not a more respected, more dignified man maybe in the game’s history. I learned from Coach Olsen how to respect the game, and how to respect your players. Really and honestly, the game of basketball is something that should be cherished, it involves a lot of great things in our lives, and Coach Olsen taught me that. He never berated players, never spoke down to them, you know, never spoke out of turn to them. He showed his emotion and his passion through his teaching of the game, and I learned that a lot over my eight years with him at Arizona.
With Coach Karl, you’re talking about the winningest head coach in the game today, I think he’s one of only five or six people that have won over 1000 games in NBA history. I learned how he managed players and how he managed staff. He was an unbelievable motivator in subtle ways—he wasn’t a yeller and screamer, he wasn’t going to embarrass guys on the floor. He used to have the moniker “Furious George”. Well, when I was with him in Denver he had matured and he had gotten to a point in his career where he didn’t have to do that. He approached it in different ways and kept a lot of things behind closed doors and in the locker room. I learned a great deal about that from him, because he’s motivating multimillionaires to play hard every night, and I was fortunate to be with him.
From Coach Pastner I learned how important it was to bring entire communities and really empower the players, because the facts are I won’t be the last head coach in the history of NAU. The school will go on after I’m gone, athletics is going to go on after I’m gone, so I’m just a caretaker of the program, and really the people that matter and the individuals that go on are the alumni. The players that put that jersey on every single night will forever be alumni of NAU. I have not graduated from NAU, I will not have a degree from NAU, but I will give NAU every single ounce of my passion that I have. But those players that have to take pride in that program. One thing Coach Pastner did at Memphis was empower those players, and it brought results. Those are the three things I learned from those three great men.
What I want to know is, what about your coaching style? How are you out there on the floor, your demeanor with players, out there on the floor, in practice, and in the locker room?
MURPHY: You know, obviously until I get a better feel for the personnel we have there at NAU initially, the playing style is going to be a little bit up in the air. I come from and up and down system. My years at Arizona we led the nation in scoring a number of years, my years in the NBA we led the nation in scoring, and we get up and down at Memphis, I mean, under Coach Pastner we really push the ball. What I’m going to bring is effort and intensity on the defensive end of the floor—that’s where you really make improvements. You can really change around seasons and even games on the defensive end of the floor. There’s going to be a large focus on getting stops, on rebounding, and then going down and executing on offense. Obviously, in a perfect world I’d love to push the basketball and get early baskets, but I really have to get a feel for the personnel and how the players feel comfortable on the offensive end. On defense we’re going to take away the paint, we’re going to strangle the opponents in making them shoot contested jump shots, and on the offensive end score at the rim. Those are things that can not be substituted—you’ve got to be able to defend the paint and attack the paint.
How long have you wanted to be a head coach?
MURPHY: Paula, I have wanted to be a head coach since I can remember far back when I went to a UNLV basketball game as a young man, but I’ve always had this dream. I wasn’t always the most athletically gifted young man, but I knew if I had a passion for the game and I wanted to be a coach that I would have to find my different avenues, which I did. So it’s been a long time coming, it’s been a childhood dream for me and today is a dream come true.
Congratulations on the job, how are you? I was just wondering, NAU under Mike Adras played Arizona pretty much every year, although they never want to go to Flagstaff, pretty much ever again, so are you interested in keeping up kind of a one-way deal like that?
MURPHY: Well obviously, I’m going to try and get Coach Miller into a free throw contest, and if I beat him I’m going to tell him we have to at least meet halfway. But I have no problem playing in [the McKale Center]. The teams that we have, NAU will be prepared to play anyone anywhere, and we’re going to be excited, because the bottom line is that you don’t win championships on your home floor. You’re going to have to go on the road at some point and you’re going to have to win games everywhere. McKale is one of the best venues in the history of college basketball, and I want our kids to experience that, and also compete on that level in giving them a chance to win on that level. We don’t have a problem going down to Tucson.
It will be tough to get people to come play you outside of the Big Sky, so do you figure you’ll have to do some of that where you’re going on the road to play some high-level teams?
MURPHY: It will be something Lisa and I will discuss further, I mean it’s a partnership with her and I, so we’ll do what we have to do for the athletic department. I have no problem playing road games, obviously in a perfect world we’d have everyone come up to Flagstaff, but there are some creative ways that we can do that. I know last year they played BYU in Prescott. There’s ways that you can play high-level teams and get them to come closer to your home. I don’t think that it’s just on the road and that’s it; I think there are creative ways in scheduling.
To follow up about Josh [Pastner] and Memphis, specifically because you had a higher level of responsibility in that program, was there a different level of learning you did as far as learning what it would take to jump into what you’re doing now?
MURPHY: In terms of being at Memphis there’s no question. If I hadn’t worked under Josh here at Memphis for three years I wouldn’t be prepared for this day. I was able to see him on a daily basis, how he handled different situations, and I learned a great deal not only on the court but also off the court. I don’t know if there’s a better person in the country handling parents, handling just some of the outside influences that can come into a program. Josh has his hands in everything, and he’s able to manage it in an organized manner, and that’s something I want to bring to NAU. In terms of basketball, he gave me a lot of responsibility last year, I was in charge of the defense this year. We had a top-10, nationally ranked, defense this year, some of the best defensive numbers in Memphis’ history, and he gave me that responsibility. After we gave up 91 points to Georgetown, he looked at me, and after we gave up 40 points to somebody else in the middle of the season, he looked at me, so he looked at me with the blame and credit, and I’m a better coach today because of that. There’s no question that Josh gave me responsibility on the floor coaching and in recruiting. I mean, he told me and he’s told every staff member here that you have to get players, and we produced and got players. I’ve been fortunate to have been given that responsibility at such a high level.
How much do you think you’d recruit in-state—I know it’s early still—but how much of a proportion do you think you might go after in-state players as opposed to California or elsewhere?
MURPHY: It’s not in terms of players, we’re going to go where the players are. Arizona has produced top players, I mean, the Division-II national player of the year this year came from Phoenix, and he played his college basketball after a brief stint early, he finished his career in Alaska-Anchorage. It’s one of those things that if there’s a student-athlete that will improve not only our team but our university, we’re going to recruit him, and it doesn’t matter if he’s in Arizona, Utah, or Manitoba. Obviously, our first and foremost focus will be in the state of Arizona, continually to build up those ties to high school coaches and AAU coaches is vital, they’re a pipeline. I think Arizona is producing more and more players on a yearly basis, it’s been well-documented. Tucson and Phoenix have produced more players recently, and Northern Arizona at large has been producing more players recently, so it’s going to be a great recruiting base for us.
I want to get back to Flagstaff and to the community, and to Lisa in particular. Very young face in leading the program, a program that looks to be going in a positive direction, what are your plans together to get NAU to a place that we’d all like to see it?
MURPHY: Well it starts with getting support. It’s going to be up to Lisa and I, and I think she would say the same thing, to get out there and bring the community to campus. There is a lot of alumni, a lot of support within the community, Prescott, and Prescott Valley, Williams, I mean, all over northern Arizona that we have to wrap our arms around them and bring them in. It’s going to be up to us to go out to them, because people are going to be excited about winning, but you have to get the excitement started initially to start the excitement. I think there are a lot of people who are yearning to support NAU athletics, we just have to come out to them and really draw them in with open arms. So I think initially it’s going to be important to not turn down any speaking engagements, because every chance you get to speak to a group is a chance to sway one or two or ten or twenty or a hundred people into the Lumberjacks’ corner, and that’s what we’re going to do.
One of the things I hear from the community is that we’d like to see you guys get out there—the athletic director, the face of the program—get out into the community and draw interest, but let’s be honest, one of the things that has to be done, and who knows how long it will take, but in order to draw people in you need to get them excited but you also have to win.
MURPHY: No question about it, there’s no doubt about it. The quickest way to fix a problem is to win, and the fastest way to win is to bring confidence back to the current players, continue to get them better. I think the player development this summer is going to be important with the new NCAA rules allowing us to work with our players, and then also bringing in new talent with a new energy. It’s going to be important all around to improve our basketball team, our product on the floor, and then put fans in the seats.
Is there anything you can say to the people of Flagstaff to let them know that you’re the guy for this job?
MURPHY: I feel like I’m one of them, I feel in some way that I grew up in the San Francisco Mountains, so I’m trying to bring that sense back to them. It’s not my team, it’s our team and our university. Some might say that Flagstaff is a small college town, well it’s a small college town with a big city inside of it. NAU’s a growing, thriving university and is looking to take the next step in athletics. It has a great tradition started with Coach Howland and carried on through Coach Adras, so I’m just looking to take the next step in athletics. It’s important to know that I’m going to be out there with the community, I will be a face that they know, and sometimes they might even get sick of seeing my face and wish I was on the radio more. But it will be one of those things that it’s going to be important for me to be out there, helping the school, being the front porch of the university with our basketball program.