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NAU’s Murphy ready to lead a program, face Arizona Wildcats

First-year Northern Arizona University men’s basketball coach Jack Murphy didn’t always know he wanted to lead a program.

Then again, he did know he wanted to coach in some capacity — something he learned while serving under Josh Pastner at the University of Memphis.

“I think that after spending the last few years in Memphis and seeing how he adjusted and ran his own program, it made me want to have my own program more and more,” Murphy told’s Bearing Down with Adam and Jarrett. “So it’s something that’s kind of developed in terms of my desire to be a head coach, but coaching and the game of basketball is something I’ve known I wanted to do for a long, long time.”

Murphy, 33, worked with Lute Olson in Arizona from 1998-2006, George Karl in Denver from 2006-2009, and Pastner 2009-2012. He said he learned from each of his stops along the coaching trail, and by the time the Northern Arizona job opened up, he knew he was ready to move up the do

“It was a job that I pursued,” he said. “It opened up last December and we were in the thick of our season there at Memphis but I was keeping an eye on things, always with my first attention being Memphis.”

Murphy said he kept his finger on the pulse of the school’s search process, and with some help from “many other people, Josh Pastner included,” learned what he needed to do to put his name in the hat.

“Once I was able to secure an interview the rest is, I guess as they say, history.”

So Murphy got the job, and is now tasked with turning around a team that went just 5-24 last season with one conference win. NAU has experienced success before — especially when Ben Howland was pacing the sidelines in the late 90s — but had fallen on hard times that ultimately led to the resignation of Mike Adras early last season.

The new coach said he has no reservations about taking the job, but has since learned it’s a better situation than he realized.

“I knew it had a great campus and a great community up here, it was beautiful,” he said. “What I didn’t realize is all the improvements that they’ve made on campus and the improvements they’ve started to make with the athletic department.