Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Record at UWG: 174-76
When it comes to basketball, there’s not much head coach Ed Murphy hasn’t achieved at West Georgia. In fact, the legendary coach is making the West Georgia Braves basketball team just that legendary for winning.
The 2004-05 Braves seemed to be a team of destiny at the beginning of the season. Darnell Miller returned for his senior campaign and was joined by a pair of D-1 former teammates in Majestic Mapp (Virginia) and Tamal Forchion (George Washington). The Braves began the season 12-0 and finished as the second seed in the GSC East Division, finally bowing out in the GSC semifinals. UWG earned a trip to the NCAA South Region tournament at Montevallo, falling 74-71 to Central Arkansas in the quarterfinals. Miller won Conference Player of the Year honors and went on to be drafted by the Fayetteville Patriots of the NBDL.
The 2001-02 season was magical for the Braves. Sealing the Gulf South Conference was the first major highlight for the Braves. But a trip to the elite eight before being stopped in the NCAA Division II Tournament capped an impressive season for UWG. West Georgia posted an impressive 21 victories, the fifth time they have surpassed 20 victories under Murphy. The conference crown was Murphy’s seventh with the Braves and the invitation to the NCAA tournament was its sixth since the 1993-94 season.
And if consistency is the mark of a solid program, West Georgia’s is set in concrete. Through 12 seasons, Murphy has guided the Braves to a record of 240-103. That is good for a winning percentage of .700, the highest of any coach in West Georgia’s basketball history.
Making Murphy’s UWG record all the more impressive is the mess he inherited upon his arrival in Carrollton in the spring of ’93. In truth, mess is a kind way of describing a program that overachieved to go 5-21 the previous season. A turnaround was actually in the making under Murphy when a year later, armed with the arrival of the likes of Tony Bailey, Dondi Flemister, and Shawn Hadley, the program had been turned around. Murphy’s first edition of the Braves won 19 games, a division title, and went to the NCAA tournament.
Nine of Murphy’s 12 years have seen Michael Cooney on the sidelines as well, who was promoted to Assistant Head Coach during this past off-season. With the departure of David Draper, who was the assistant head coach for nine years, Murphy hired former All-GSC standout Andy Young to fill out his 2005-06 coaching staff. Shannon Weaver was a part of Murphy’s first Braves coaching staff, staying four seasons before departing for a Division I job on the staff at Auburn.
West Georgia, however, is not Murphy’s first success story in the Gulf South Conference. The Syracuse, New York native has spent 13 years as a head coach at three GSC schools. Previously, he led both West Alabama and Delta State to league titles and NCAA Tournament berths. Nationally, Murphy is best known for his years at the University of Mississippi. There, he led the Rebels to 76 victories in five seasons. Also, Murphy carried Ole Miss to the Southeastern Conference Tournament finals and twice to the National Invitational Tournament. Although he hails from upstate New York, Murphy’s roots in the South run deep. As a collegian he played two years of junior college ball at Copiah-Lincoln in Mississippi, followed by a pair of seasons at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. He also coached two seasons at the high school level in Texas before moving on to the collegiate level. Winning was no stranger to Murphy as an assistant coach, either. Murphy’s coach at Hardin-Simmons, Lou Henson, had taken over the New Mexico State program and wanted his former pupil on the sideline. The Aggies were on their way to the most successful era in the school’s basketball history, and Murphy was a big part of the success. Players like Sam Lacey, Jimmie Collins, Charlie Criss and other big names came to Las Cruces, New Mexico. So did major success. The Aggies became a national power, culminating wih a trip to the NCAA Final Four in 1970. Although they lost to eventual champ UCLA, New Mexico State was now a national power in college basketball. After leaving Ole Miss, Murphy spent the 1992-93 season off the bench and behind the microphone. There were assignments from ESPN and Creative Sports, but mostly Murphy worked SEC telecasts on the Jefferson Pilot network. It didn’t take fans long to find out why Murphy is a much in demand sports humorist and motivational speaker.
Though he was a hit on television, the always-competitive Murphy wanted another crack on the sidelines. Now at UWG and 240 wins later, Murphy has revolutionized basketball spirit and tradition at West Georgia.