(February 11, 2007)GLOUCESTER CITY NJ--They could've posed to be chiseled for a Mount Rushmore of Gloucester Catholic High School boys' basketball coaches.
Current Rams coach Pat Murphy was there Saturday afternoon at the Colonial/Tri-County Shootout matchup with Sterling. So were former Gloucester Catholic coaches Ralph Saquella and Tony "Putt" Powers. Only missing from the list of the last four Rams coaches dating back to 1965 was the great Art DiPatri.
Murphy, photo on the right, was recently honored on the occasion of his 300th win. To see more photos of the presentation click
There is a reason guys like Saquella and Powers and DiPatri make it back to Rams games so often. It is Murphy. He has continued to foster a family bond for this tight, tiny school that reveres the days of the Rams state title teams in 1964 and 1972 like Holy Days.
There is also a reason why a referee can make a mistake and still enjoy a quick laugh about it -- like late in the game when it sounded like Sterling coach Bill Hiltner called timeout, but instead was yelling a play and the official blew the whistle to stop play.
It is Murphy. And it is not just because Murphy is a really respected back judge in football that he could make Jack Rowland, also a really respected ref, laugh a little. It is because as fierce as he is as a competitor, Murphy is cool enough to still have fun on the sidelines.
There is also a reason why after Gloucester Catholic beat Sterling 44-39 Hiltner said the Silver Knights are better now for having played the Rams.
It is Murphy. His teams always play man-to-man defense like it's a backyard game between brothers. His offense is always precise and patient, as if you are watching a Bobby Knight video on penetrating and dishing.
Murphy just does so many things so well.
Like winning. Earlier this week, Murphy won his 300th game as coach of the Rams.
"He is a great guy," Hiltner, who won his 500th game last month, said about Murphy. "He is a credit to the coaching profession."
Murphy was like a coach when he played for Powers at Gloucester Catholic in the mid-1970s.
"He was a point guard and he did what he had to do," Powers said. "He didn't start until his senior year because he was playing behind two great guards in Bobby Page and Phil Anastasia for two years, but he did a real nice job -- he was like a coach on the floor."
Murphy became Powers' assistant for eight years before taking over after the 1984 season.
"To see him win 300 games," Powers said, "I feel good about him."
There are so many people around South Jersey basketball who feel good for Murphy because of how he has won -- with passion and pride, with humor and humility and with firmness and fairness.
No one, though, feels better for Murphy than his players -- the former guys like Audubon coach Billy Green and Shawnee principal Matt Campbell, who were at the 300th win game, and current guys like seniors Nick Schoppy and Ryan Cass, who helped the Rams improve to 17-3.
Said Cass: "He has created a nice relationship with us on and off the court."
It shouldn't be surprising Murphy does so many things so well as a coach. He is that way as a person.
Consider how he took his whole team out to breakfast on Saturday morning and then how he took them to watch his son, Kyle, play basketball for Erin's Secret Garden in a Gloucester youth league game.
And like how Murphy fondly calls his wife, Theresa, his "high school sweetheart."
And how he proudly speaks of their five children -- Casey, 26, Ryan, 25, Theresa Mary, 21, Tara, 9, and Kyle, 6. And how he talks admirably about his brothers working as union electricians like his father did in Local 351. And how he talks about being fortunate to buy his parents' (George and Marie) house and live in Gloucester.
If it all sounds just too good to be true, well, it is because it is Murphy.
"I have great support from the administration, from the parents and the former players," Murphy said. "It is such a family."