Sun, Sept. 15

UA hires away NAU men’s basketball head coach

NAU head coach Jack Murphy left his post to become associate head coach at Arizona. Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

NAU head coach Jack Murphy left his post to become associate head coach at Arizona. Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The University of Arizona didn’t go far to find a new associate head men’s basketball coach, picking a familiar face.

The Wildcats hired former Northern Arizona head coach Jack Murphy to take over for Mark Phelps, who has been on paid leave since February. Meanwhile, NAU named Shane Burcar as interim head coach.

Murphy returns to Tucson after working in the NBA and Flagstaff.

“It’s very exciting to welcome back Jack Murphy and his family to the University of Arizona,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said in a press release. “Jack combines invaluable head coaching experience, recruiting at the national level of college basketball, and an NBA pedigree. More importantly, Jack brings a love for Arizona Basketball and our community like no one that I have met in coaching. He is a tremendous person, a caring family man, and an outstanding coach. All of us in our program look forward to working with him as we prepare for an exciting year ahead.”

Murphy coached at NAU for seven seasons, highlighted by a school-record 23 victories in 2014-15 campaign, when the Lumberjacks reached the championship game of the postseason tournament.

Burcar joined NAU to last season as an assistant coach after 12 years as head coach at Mesa High School. He went 237-103 at Mesa, including the 2016 Arizona Class 6A State Championship. He won region coach of the year six times and his team made the AIA playoffs 10 times.

“We are fortunate to have a coach with Shane’s basketball acumen to lead our program as Interim Head Coach,” said NAU Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Marlow in a press release. “Assistant Coaches Jason Sanchez and Gaellan Bewernick along with the returning talent and leadership on our squad, provide many of the necessary ingredients for Coach Burcar to lead a seamless transition. While NAU will conduct a national search for our next head coach, I won’t be surprised if Shane emerges as a very strong candidate. As has been our practice, we will put all of our efforts into the success of this season and conduct a thorough review of the program at the conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign.”

NAU returns their top six scorers from last season, where they quadrupled their conference win total from the 2016-17 campaign. The Lumberjacks return Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Bernie Andre, who led them in both scoring and rebounding and nearly 89 percent of their scoring from a year ago.

Murphy served as team manager, recruiting coordinator, administrative assistant, video coordinator and director of operations at Arizona, his alma mater. After the hire, UA alums who played or play in the NBA praised him on Twitter.

“Murph was there when I was a freshman at Arizona when we lost the 2001 National Title, and there in 2003 when we lost in the Elite Eight,” Arizona alumnus and Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton said in a press release. “He helped prepare me for the 2003 NBA Draft, and has been there for me ever since. When I think of Wildcat basketball, and what that means, I think of Jack Murphy. He will do a great job for Sean, and my family and I will be rooting for our Cats!”

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