I got my opportunity to talk to the new coach (Tod Murphy) on August 25th in his Gordon College office. I already knew a little about him because of several internet stories.
In the interview, he told me that he knew nothing about Gordon before he heard about the head-coach opening. “I wanted to move into a head coaching position and I wanted to do it in a Christian school,” he said.
Tod had been an assistant at Cal Irvine but wanted to move away from Division One. “I became disenchanted with the players’ motivations,” he told me. “I was sure that at the Division Three level the players play because they love basketball not for any sort of scholarship.”
He had been a finalist for several other head coaching jobs in the last four years in California. As a finalist in the Gordon job, he admitted that he didn’t know what to expect when he was brought in for an interview. “I felt good about the phone interview, but I wasn’t sure if they offered me the job I would take it,” he said. “But after coming here and visiting I realized that it was a no-brainer. I fell in love with the school and the area.”
He said that he is now just as close to the ocean as he was in California. He did realize, however, that the water temperatures would not be similar!
I learned that he had been a wingman in high school but suddenly grew 4-5 inches his sophomore year and that put him in close to the basket. He graduated with the Cal Irvine scoring record and said that his development of turn-around, fall-away jump shot was the key to his scoring – “No one could block it.”
Things were different at the pro level. “I became more of a role player and a defensive player,” he said. “I sat on the weakside and if things broke down on the other side, the ball would swing my way for 18-footers. I also scored on a lot of offensive rebounds.”
He told me that any success he had in the NBA was due to his willingness to, “work his tail off,” and the fact that he has “a good basketball mind.” “Larry Bird wasn’t a great athlete but mentally he was two steps ahead of everyone else,” he said. “I wasn’t two steps ahead, like Larry, but I was a half step, and it made a difference.”
He believes that his basketball knowledge and work ethic will help the Gordon program.
Tod was well aware that Mike Schauer had developed a great program and that “the cupboard was certainly not bare.” He said that he does not intend to change what’s here into “Tod Murphy’s program.” “I want to continue what Mike Schauer has set up,” he added.
He did say, though, that the offense might be a little different. “There will be continuity but I want to do more in creating shots for players like Aaron, Brady, Ben, and Greg,” he said. He expected to use the man-to-man defense we’ve seen for Mike Schauer’s seven seasons.
He confirmed the good news that freshman David Dempsey ( 6’5” – Wallingford CT) is on campus. One internet report has him as an excellent perimeter player. An individual closer to the team says that David is the most athletic player this team has ever had.
Tod looks to shorten the minutes of key players. “The first 16 games are important and we’ll be ready for them,” he said, “but it’s 17-25 where we want to be peaking for the postseason.” The frustrating thing for the Gordon faithful has been the team’s inability to win a semifinal game in the tournament. Maybe fewer minutes will help to change that.
Tod realizes that recruiting will be a challenge. He also realizes that with five seniors this team will need some replacements next season. “I did a lot of recruiting at Cal Irvine but that was for Division One players,” he told me.
He said that he grew up a big fan of Jerry West’s. Nowadays he said that his favorite player is Dwight Howard. “He’s a tremendous player who works hard and hasn’t lost sight of his Christian faith,” he said. He admires Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen for the same reasons. Another player he admired was Kurt Rambis. “Kurt was similar to me,” he recalled. “He was a big scorer at Santa Clara but turned into a role player for the Lakers. He did everything to help that team win games and that’s the kind of player I want to bring here to Gordon.”
Tod has seen some of the game films and not surprisingly, Timmy MacDonnell has caught his eye. “He is one hard-nosed player,” said Tod. “He told me that he had already taken one or two charges per game in summer league.”
Similar to thousands of coaches, Tod said he admired the coaching style of John Wooden of UCLA. “He stressed preparation,” said Tod of Wooden, “and that’s what I’ll do. This team has talent. The important thing will be preparation.”
At the time of the interview Tod was set up in a rented house nearby but without his wife (Kelly), and daughters Annie (6), Lacey (3 ½) and Kylie (22 months). “I miss them,” he said. “They’ll be here from California shortly. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart.”
So Mike Schauer and his three sons have left as Tod Murphy and his three daughters are arriving.
In addition, to be noted is that Tod Murphy is a legitimate 6’9” and looks lean enough to be able to show as well as tell his players something.
Mike Schauer was a serious 3-point scorer at Wheaton. Tod was a serious in-close scorer at Cal Irvine. I’ll be curious to see what Gordon’s developing inside game becomes in 2009-10 as Ben, Jeff, Jon, and Greg are coached by someone who knows the inside game personally.
I will own up to the fact that I’m excited about the New England Patriots as their season is about to start. I’m now also ready to get just as excited about this year’s Gordon College Fighting Scots team after having met the coach. Bring on the season!