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By ERIC RUEB
With Jim Baron released from his contract â or, in laymanâs terms, fired â as head coach of the University of Rhode Island menâs basketball coach along with 10-year assistant Pat Clarke and first-year assistant Larry Harris, the only coach still left standing is a name any URI fan is familiar with.
Preston Murphy, who played guard for the Rams from 1995-1999, returned to Kingston as an as assistant coach in 2010 and, after Sundayâs decision from URI Direction of Athletics Thorr Bjorn, is the only coach left standing.
âWeâve released the other two coaches and asked Preston to stay on to keep the programâs focus moving forward,â said Bjorn by phone Monday. âGuys on the team need that stability in the office and around the program.â
Murphy and Director of Basketball Operations Dan Szramowski remain with the program after Sundayâs moves. Baron had two years remaining on his contract; Clarke and Harris were on one-year renewable deals and were both told they wouldnât be offered new contracts.
It wasnât much of a surprise to see Murphy retained; traditionally athletic programs keep someone on staff â Brown University fired coach Jesse Agel Monday and named former St. Raphael and Vermont star and current assistant T.J. Sorrentine as interim coach â to keep up appearances.
In the case of Murphy, it may have been more. The former Rams was instrumental in bring most of the current freshman class to Kingston and in the wake of Baronâs firing, their loyalty to their coach was made clear in the Twitterverse.
âIâm with you @coach_PMurphyâ Tweeted URIâs Jonathan Holton Sunday. Holton was one of Murphyâs big recruits and averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in his freshman season; Monday, he was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team.
With freshmen like Holton, starting point guard Mike Powell (8.7 ppg; 3.7 assists per game), reserve Dominique McKoy being credited as a Murphy recruit, not to mention Jordan Hare, the Saginaw, Mich. product who gave his verbal commitment to URI in October, it wasnât a surprise to see Murphy affiliate with the program after Baronâs dismissal.
But Murphy is not, as of now, a candidate to take over for Baron simply because, with only four years as an assistant at Boston College and two at URI, he doesnât have the experience and being a head coach for the Rams is certainly different than at Woonsocket High School, which was the last place Murphy served as a head coach.
âHeâs got to continue to learn and grow in this business,â Bjorn said. âI think he knows where heâs at. I think he knows where heâs at and heâs excited about the opportunity to continue with a new coach if given that opportunity.â
The opportunity isnât a guarantee. More often than not, a new head coach replaces the old staff with his own, meaning whoever takes over for Baron may not keep Murphy on.
With the relationships Murphyâs built with his players and as a recruiter itâd be hard not to see him stay.
âWhat Iâve promised Preston and Dan in their willingness to do this is I will not dictate who a coach is going to hire,â Bjorn said. âI will say both of them will absolutely get an interview with my highest recommendation.â