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Buckaroos bid farewell to girls basketball coach Mike Murphy

The longtime St. Paul coach retires with a 315-87 record, 11 trips to the postseason in 14 seasons and one state title


by: SETH GORDON - Bucks' coach Mike Murphy is retiring for good this time. The St. Paul girls basketball coach originally retired in 2009 only to come back two years later to coach for an additional three seasons.Sometimes not saying much says a lot about a person.

Like when St. Paul girls basketball coach Mike Murphy won the 300th game of his career in January, he barely said a word about it to anyone.

Similarly, it was almost an afterthought when Murphy mentioned that he was stepping away from coaching after the Bucks completed their dramatic late-season run to third place at the 1A state tournament in March.

“He’s probably one of the most modest people,” St. Paul athletic director Tony Smith said. “I think that’s one of the things that as another coach you always respect when you can have the kind of success that Mike’s had and it’s never about him. It’s always about the girls.” Murphy’s accomplishments are nothing to play down, however, having finished with a 315-87 record (78.3 winning percentage) and having led his teams to the state tournament in 11 out of 14 years as head coach. That run includes the 1A state title in 2007.

This actually marks the second time Murphy has stepped down as St. Paul coach, having walked way following the 2008-09 season.

Fittingly, it was a pair of players, Jensen Smith and Tessa Brentano, who were freshmen on the varsity season that asked him to return to coach their senior season in the 2011-12 school year when Mark Johnson left the post.

Although it has certainly worked out well, Murphy said that, in hindsight, he made the mistake of telling the senior duo that he would do it if they couldn’t find anyone else.

by: SETH GORDON - St. Paul's Jessica Wilmes (left) and teammate Sara Pierson visited coach Mike Murphy following the 2012-13 season to help convince him to return for their senior seasons.“I think that was the last they looked for anyone,” Murphy joked.

It was supposed to be a one-year deal, but not surprisingly, another pair of players asked him to stay on another year and again he agreed.

With the pattern well-established, it was seniors Jessica Wilmes and Sara Pierson who visited Murphy’s house after the 2012-13 campaign, in which the Bucks followed up their second-place showing in 2012 by finishing third.

Wilmes, Pierson and classmate Carolina Ruvalcaba were sophomores in Murphy’s first year back and he didn’t have to dig deep to realize it was something he wanted to see through.

“He really respects us as people, so I think that makes us really respect him because he treats us like equals,” Wilmes said. “It makes us feel so comfortable around him. Not only is he our basketball coach, but he’s there for us any other time.”

This year’s charge to a second consecutive third-place trophy was unexpected because St. Paul had amassed an uncharacteristic 10 losses in the regular season, but, at the same time, it was also a quite-familiar-by-then playoff run for a Murphy-coached team.

What may be unfamiliar is that Murphy is adamant that he is done for good this time.

“It’s one of those things where one year turned into three years and it’s primarily because of the kids that were there,” Murphy said. “I knew it would be the last year before it started and the way it ended made it pretty special.”



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