Timing wasn't right for Rob Murphy to bolt

August, 23, 2012
Rob Murphy's ultimate goal is to be in the NBA.

He initially shared a similar track to one of his closest friends, Troy Weaver, following him as an assistant at Syracuse.

Weaver leaped from that job to the NBA, where he has climbed the ladder from scout to vice president and assistant general manager with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So when new Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan called Murphy about being the director of college scouting with a staff of three, he said he had to listen.

And Murphy did. The Eastern Michigan coach, who was named the MAC Coach of the Year after winning a West Division title (14-18, 9-7 MAC) in his first season, said he was upfront with his staff and players when the call came in.

In the end, though, he turned it down. He has a buyout of $210,000, but Murphy said the decision was about much more than that.

"A buyout was never discussed regarding this situation," he said. "I didn't ask for more money. I had just completed my first year of a five-year deal, and after the season, I got another year, so I still have five more years.

"I love what I'm doing. The timing wasn't right. I'm a loyal person, and there's no way I would leave my position knowing the negative impact and the effect it would have on many lives."

Murphy said he was well aware that if he left two weeks before school started, there was a good chance that his entire staff, which he had just hired a year ago, could be out of a job.

"Five staff members that I hired one year ago would have been jobless," Murphy said. "Leaving the eight players that I recruited here would have been unfair, and six of them haven't played for me yet."

He felt he would have turned his back on the players who committed to him, he said, especially players who transferred in and sat out a year like Glenn Bryant (Arkansas) and Daylen Harrison (Wyoming) and those who were on their way, like James Still (Providence and Henry Ford Community College) and Mike Talley (Duquesne).

Getting freshman Ray Lee, a Detroit native, away from what Murphy said were potential offers from Xavier, Iowa, Iowa State, Seton Hall, UCF and Baylor was also tugging at him. So was the arrival of Jalen Ross, a point guard from North Carolina.

Murphy has so much confidence in this team, which includes 7-foot center DaShonte Riley, who once was at Syracuse, that he has scheduled up to play at Syracuse, Kentucky and Michigan along with a home game against Purdue.

"My dream is to one day work at the highest level of basketball, but the timing isn't/wasn't right," Murphy said. "I was fortunate to get the opportunity to be the head coach at Eastern Michigan. I was born and raised in Detroit, which makes it a greater opportunity for me and my family."

Murphy said he also didn't want to turn his back on an administration that gave him his first head-coaching job, namely president Susan Martin and athletic director Derrick Gragg.

The decision-making process could have been handled better, though. Murphy said he didn't want to make this a media scene in Detroit or Ypsilanti. Still, Murphy could have defused the situation by being more public sooner.

"It wasn't going to be fair to the university, to the staff, to the players, and all that weighed in the decision," said Murphy. "That's the truth."

Murphy also defended being at June's NBA pre-draft camp at Illinois-Chicago. He didn't have an EMU player there, but he did have a former recruit in Syracuse's Kris Joseph, whom he said he talks to nearly every day as a mentor.

He said he has been going to the pre-draft camp for eight or nine years for personal development as a coach, not to hunt for a job. He said he didn't talk to Hennigan at the pre-draft camp about the job, since Hennigan was still with Oklahoma City at the time and wasn't the favorite for the Magic GM job.

"I go there to pick up things like drills, screen-and-rolls and work on basketball development," said Murphy. "I go to the NBA summer league too. I wasn't there to get a job."

Murphy said he was upfront about the Magic offer once it came.

"I told my staff and my players that they had called, because I wanted them to hear it from me," he said. "I didn't want anyone to speculate. I never sought out the position."

He said he doesn't feel like he has to repair any hard feelings.

Look, no one would fault Murphy if he takes Eastern Michigan to another level and then bolts for another job. He should aspire for career growth, especially if it pays more and can offer security at a higher-level conference or even in the NBA if that's his chosen career path.

But the timing of any decision is also a factor, since as a head coach, what he does can dramatically affect other people's lives. Leaving folks dangling in the wind two weeks before the start of school isn't right for those who work for him and came to play for him unless the offer is too rich to turn down or for some reason he is miserable or his family is unhappy.

What would have happened if the money was much better? We'll never know.

Murphy's choice was pretty simple. Take a job in an NBA front office and fulfill his dream, but do it at the expense of others in a terrible bout of timing, or stay.

He knew the right decision.

Now he is promoting the Eagles as if they will be MAC champs soon.

"We are going to be one of the best mid-majors," said Murphy. "We will be."

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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