Northern Arizona has hired Memphis assistant Jack Murphy to rebuild a program that labored through a difficult season.
An assistant under Josh Pastner at Memphis the past three seasons, Murphy takes over a Lumberjacks team that lost its coach less than a month into the season and ended it on a school-record 16-game losing streak.
"A lot of people thought that despite the record last year, there are winners on this team and we can really move this basketball program forward," Lisa Campos, hired as Northern Arizona's athletic director on March 30, said Thursday. "We felt that Jack was the right person to do that."
Coming off a solid 2010-11 season, Northern Arizona got off its worst start in 11 years and lost coach Mike Adras, who abruptly left the team on Dec. 9. Former NAU women's coach Dave Brown did an admirable job holding the team together, but couldn't lead the Lumberjacks to many wins; they finished 5-24 and were 1-15 in the Big Sky Conference.
Once Campos was hired, she moved quickly to find a coach to lead the program into the future.
After bringing in seven candidates for interviews, she chose Murphy, a 32-year-old who had worked under some of the best coaches in basketball.
Known as an outstanding recruiter, the defensive-minded Murphy helped Pastner land some of the nation's best recruiting classes in their three years together with the Tigers.
Murphy also spent three years as an advance scout for the Denver Nuggets, where he worked under George Karl, who became the seventh coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 wins in 2010.
Prior to that, Murphy worked with Pastner on Lute Olson's staff at Arizona. He spent eight years (1998-2006) in Tucson under the Hall of Fame coach, serving as a team manager, recruiting coordinator, administrative assistant, video coordinator and director of operations.
Now, he gets his first shot at a head coaching job back in Arizona.
"It's not going to be without challenges," Murphy said. There will be times we will have to dig deep and think positively in certain situations, but I feel I'm prepared to lead the program athletically, academically, as well as socially to help us bring a new day -- not a better day, but a new day -- in NAU men's basketball."
Murphy arrives in Flagstaff with plenty of previous knowledge of the area.
He grew up in Las Vegas, spent his summers as a kid in nearby Prescott and had been to Flagstaff plenty of times, visiting friends who attend the school, watching football and basketball games, even attending a wedding there. He also had those eight years in Tucson, just a few hours to the southeast of Flagstaff.
"I really felt it was a job that fit perfectly for me and my family, to get back to an area where I can not only recruit, but feel comfortable with the future," Murphy said. "It's not just Flagstaff's university, but all of northern Arizona's university and I really feel comfortable with that part of the country and that part of the state particularly, and that's what drew me to the job originally."