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Season Preview: CHD sits down with Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy

To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy about being a part of the longest game in Big East history.  

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You have five seniors and one grad student on your roster, how big a factor do you think your team’s experience will be this season? I think it will be huge. Our chemistry should be extremely good because we have been together for three years and made great strides, so we are ready to prove that we are 1 of the premier programs in a tough conference. We are shooting for #1 in the conference but hope to finish in the top-four.

Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Kentucky, Duke, and Syracuse.  Do you have nightmares just thinking about the road ahead?! Not at all: I know it will be tough but I firmly believe that if you want to be the best you have to go out and play the best. These are three premier programs: it helps with recruiting because everyone wants to play at a high-major school and can measure themselves against these great schools. It also helps prepare us for our conference season.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season? We always want to win our side of the league, have a good non-conference showing, and improve each and every day. We want to enter the MAC tourney playing the best ball we can possibly play. Hopefully we can be in contention for a regular season title and then see how things fare. It is extremely important for us to protect our home floor.

You were a two-time team captain at Central State, what is the key to being a good leader? You have to be a liaison on the floor and implement the coach’s plan into action.

You were also named team DPOY as a senior, what is your secret for playing good defense? Effort, energy, and enthusiasm: no matter how fast or slow you are, you have to enjoy playing defense. .

You spent several years as an assistant under Coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, what makes him such a great coach, and what was the most important thing you ever learned from him? There are a lot of things that make him a Hall of Fame coach. He is the master of putting players in position to be successful and is great at communicating with his guys. He has been there for almost 40 years but has been able to adapt to each new generation of kids coming into school.

In the 2005 NCAA tourney Hakim Warrick had 21 points and 12 rebounds and 10 turnovers in a three-point, overtime loss to Vermont.  Where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It is definitely in the top-two. It was my first year at Syracuse, so to come off of a phenomenal regular season/Big East tourney with a potential Final 4 team and then lose in the first round was tough.

In the 2009 Big East tourney Jonny Flynn had 34 points, 11 assists and six steals in 67 minutes in a 10-point six-overtime marathon win over UConn.  What are your memories of the longest game in conference history? Our guys just hung in there and continued to compete. We were trailing in five of the six overtimes but our guys dug in and would not give up. It was a total team effort and showed that everyone from your stars to your walk-ons have to be ready to play.

In 2011 you were named head coach at Eastern Michigan, why did you take the job? I felt that I learned a lot after winning a state title in Michigan on the high school level, and I also got some MAC experience while working at Kent State. I thought the timing was right: being from Detroit, it was also great to get to come home. We want to get back to the glory days of Earl Boykins, and we have some good things in place, so I think it is a perfect fit for me.

You had a three-point loss to Northern Illinois in the 2012 MAC tourney but got some revenge with a one-point win over the Huskies in the 2013 MAC tourney.  Is it just a coincidence that you keep meeting up with them in March or do you think this is the start of a strong rivalry? It is more of a coincidence based on our draw, but both of us are up-and-coming programs. To lose in 2012 in my first year as coach was tough, but it was great to bounce back in 2013: it was huge for our program.

JonTeitel