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Is it Time To End the Rob Murphy Era?

As the Eagles have a sluggish start, is it time to move on?

Rob Murphy sitting on the bench.
Kenneth Bailey

In 2011, I started shooting from the sidelines for a blog called Eagle Totem. When the head of Eagle Totem decided to move on, I ended up coming here. I mention that year because that was the year that Rob Murphy started as the head basketball coach at Eastern Michigan. In that year, he has a 14-18 overall record but was 9-7 in the MAC which was good enough for him to tie for 1st in the MAC West.

In 2012, he went 16-18 overall and finished 7-9 in the MAC, this was enough for him to be fourth in the MAC West. In the next year, he went 22-15 overall and 10-8 in the MAC which was enough for him to be third in the MAC West. It was good enough for him to get an invitation to the CIT where he fell in the second round. The fact that he won more than 20 games also meant that he would get one year added to his contract which pushed it to 2018.

Things started promising in 2014 when he would defeat Michigan at Crisler Arena, however that didn’t translate to success later when he finished the season 21-14 overall and 8-10 in the MAC. This was good enough for him to tie for 4th place in the MAC West. It was also enough to get him into the CBI (another pay to play tournament). The Eagles were unceremoniously dumped in the first round that year. But he hit the 20 game mark to get another year on his contract bringing it to 2020. The next year would see an 18-15 overall record and 9 and 9 in the MAC. This was enough to tie for third in the MAC but enough for the post season.

In 2016, the Eagles would finish 16 and 17 overall and 7-11 in the MAC. This was good enough for fourth in the MAC. 2016 seemed like one of those seasons where Eastern Michigan would go further than they did. They had a senior Raven Lee, a junior Tim Bond and a sophomore James Thompson IV. They also had some pretty good supporting players but it wasn’t to be. Last year saw the Eagles finish 22-13 overall and 11-7 in the MAC. This was good enough for 2nd in the West. It was good enough to get them elusive first round bye in the MAC tournament. It wasn’t enough for them to win the MAC Tournament. However, they did find themselves in the post season again. They were able to handily beat Niagara at home but they fell to Sam Houston State in the second round. Again, Rob Murphy was able to add another year to his contract, bringing it to 2020.

All of this brings us to this season. Currently the Eagles have an 8-11 overall record and are 2-4 in the MAC. They are currently on a three game losing streak, although admittedly two of those teams are pretty good teams in the form of Bowling Green and Buffalo. In the preseason, they faced Duke, Rutgers and Kansas, so it wasn’t like they were slouching on the schedule. There are still twelve games left in the season, they can still have a decent showing this season.

All of this begs the question, is it time for Eastern Michigan to move on past Rob Murphy? If they do, I don’t think they fire him until the end of the season. Like I said, there are still 12 games left. If one thing is apparent, the Eagles are very inconsistent this year. Given that the core of the team are seniors, I don’t think this should be the case. They still have a chance to turn the season around with a strong finish in conference play.

If they do finish strongly, I don’t think they finish strongly enough for Murphy to get 20 wins this season. If that’s the case, he’s likely finished at the end of next season. Something tells me that Eastern is not going to fire him with a year left. Granted, he is only making $235,000 but I don’t think that Eastern is going to pick up that salary while they are paying another coach.

The case for firing him is that he has never been able to win the MAC Championship. Last year was probably his best chance for doing so and he didn’t do it. There were a couple of other years where it seemed like he had the team on paper to do it but it never came to fruition. Winning a conference championship is important for a Mid Major Team because for the most part, that is the only way they make the Big Dance.

Personally, I like Coach Murphy but I think he may need to do some evaluation of his defense. A couple years ago, it was a lock but I think as more teams see it, they can exploit it’s weaknesses. That might be part of what is happening. The other thing is that he needs to instill a sense of patience in his team. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the defensive stop only to watch the ball clang off the rim on the Eastern shot.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I answered my first question but I know I’m not ready to see him go. Other fans have a different opinion.