Rob Murphy's homecoming trip to Syracuse came at difficult time
First-year Eastern Michigan basketball coach Rob Murphy returned to Syracuse on Tuesday, but any joyful homecoming festivities were overshadowed by the sexual assault accusations against former Syracuse assistant Bernie Fine.
Donna Ditota of the Syracuse Post-Standard covered the return of Murphy -- a seven-year assistant at Syracuse -- and we're sharing excerpts below:
Rob Murphy spent seven years in Syracuse. Both of his children were born here. The Detroit native considers the place something of a second home.
So when SU invited Murphy and his new Eastern Michigan team to play in the Carrier Dome, the former Orange assistant happily accepted. The trip would reunite him with Jim Boeheim, who hired him from Kent State and mentored him in Syracuse. It would allow him to rekindle old relationships, to interact with the assistant coaches he worked with and the players he mentored.
But the events of the past 12 days cast a significant pall over Murphy’s homecoming. The accusations of sexual assault against former SU assistant Bernie Fine and the sordid innuendo that a Sunday audiotape evoked turned a potentially joyful tryst into a pre- and post-game dissertation on ball boy travel regulations and the real or imagined power of Syracuse’s head basketball coach.
The Orange won the game 84-48 on Tuesday, the playing of which seemed merely a footnote formality to probe further into the murky details of the Fine situation. When it was over, Murphy briefly discussed his team’s solid first half, but was steered quickly to what has transpired in Syracuse over the past dozen days.
“It’s a difficult time for Syracuse, period,” he said. “I look at Coach Boeheim as a mentor, a father figure when I was here. He did a lot for me to help me in my career, just giving me this opportunity. And what he did for me the past seven years, obviously, it’s tough.”
After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, the two coaches met near midcourt for an exchange of the typical pregame pleasantries. But this time, Murphy locked Boeheim in a tight embrace. He acknowledged later that the hug held significant poignancy, given the time, the place and the circumstances.
“Just thank you. I love you. Thanks for the opportunity. Thanks for having me here,” Murphy told Boeheim. “He knows that. I love the guy. He’s my guy.”
The story also tells about Syracuse player Kris Joseph paying a visit to Murphy at the Eastern Michigan team hotel. The two were close when Murphy was an Orange assistant coach.
The two talked about basketball, they said. Murphy complimented Joseph on the way he’s improved his overall game.
“Just catching up,” Murphy said.
“He definitely keeps tabs on me. He watches the games. That’s my guy, man,” Joseph said. “I miss him a lot. But we had to do what we had to do today. Ah, it was tough. Kind of like when we had to beat my brother when we played Vermont.”
That happened in the NCAA tournament, back in 2010. Then, Kris Joseph’s Syracuse team defeated Maurice Joseph’s Vermont team.
This time, the family ties were not rooted in blood. In the post-game media room, Murphy held his 3-year-old son, Rob, who had been such a fixture at Orange basketball games. Not far from that scene, Juli Boeheim held Ryann Murphy, the 10-month-old daughter of Rob and his wife, TeNesha.
“It’s exciting to be back,” Rob Murphy said. “This is home. This is family for me.”