UPDATED: Friday, 10 p.m. ET.
Pat Murphy, one of the most colorful, out-spoken and successful figures in college baseball, has resigned as head coach at Arizona State. The Sun Devils released this statement Friday afternoon:
Arizona State University baseball coach Pat Murphy announced his resignation today. An interim head coach will assume responsibility for the program until his replacement is selected.
“Coach Murphy has an outstanding record of success on the playing field,” said Lisa Love, university vice president for athletics. “I thank him for 16 years of hard work and service to the university and the sport.”
Pat Murphy became ASU’s head baseball coach in August 1994. During his tenure, he was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times, his teams took three straight Pac-10 titles and two World Series berths, and in 1998 he was named the National Coach of the Year.
Since the 2000 season, no other Pac-10 school has won as many games as ASU, both overall and conference games. Murphy has also had more players drafted by Major League Baseball since 1995 than any other coach in the nation.
ASU will immediately begin a national search for a new head baseball coach.
We’ll have much more on this major development as information becomes available.
UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Oregon State coach Pat Casey, who had not yet heard the news about Murphy’s resignation and was understandably stunned. Casey is one of Murphy’s closest friends in the college coaching world, and the fact that Casey hadn’t heard this news indicates that this decision was not planned well in advance. Casey even said he spoke with Murphy on the phone "the other day" and Murphy did not say anything about a plan to resign. Reaction in the baseball industry—scouts, agents, coaches—has been shock across the board.
There are two obvious figures on the sidelines here. One is Ken Knutson, who joined ASU’s staff this summer after 17 years as the head coach at Washington. With his background as a head coach in the Pac-10, Knutson would at least make sense as an interim coach to stabilize the situation while the Sun Devils conduct a national search—which might not yield any fruits until after the season. Late November is far from an ideal time to make a big splash with a coaching hire. UPDATE: On Friday evening, Knutson was named interim head coach for the 2010 season, according to a Yahoo! sports report. Arizona State sports information director Randy Policar said Monday he was still awaiting word on who would be the interim coach. A national search is expected after the season.
Here’s another name to keep in mind as a potential long-term successor: Arizona State softball coach Clint Myers. Sources familiar with the Sun Devils have speculated in the past that Love liked the idea of installing Myers as ASU’s baseball coach. Myers did have success in 10 seasons as the head baseball coach for Central Arizona JC, where he made two trips to the Junior College World Series and won a national title in 2002. He also played for the Sun Devils in the early 1970s, and his son Casey played for ASU as well. Myers played for legendary coach Bobby Winkles, coached under legendary coach Jim Brock, and his son played under Murphy, so he’s a Sun Devil through and through.
Another note: Assistant coach Andy Stankiewicz left the Sun Devils in the last week to take a job in the Mariners’ player-development department, according to multiple sources.
Murphy could not be reached for comment Friday. His longtime friend Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s head coach, said Friday that he was surprised and saddened by the news. Corbin and Murphy met in 1993, and Murphy later hired Corbin’s daughter, Molly, as a student assistant.
"When I first started coaching at Clemson as an assistant, the very first head coach that ever spent any amount of time with me was Murph," Corbin said. "I can remember it like it was yesterday, back in 1993 when I was out recruiting. He didn’t have to sit next to me and spend any time with me, but he did, and from that moment on we formed a very good friendship. (Clemson coach) Jack (Leggett) and Murph were the most inspirational coaches I’ve been around. I hold a high place for him, I really do. He’s looked over me, my family, he hired my daughter, he’s close to my wife. I just like him."
Also Friday, Love told the Arizona Republic that Murphy’s resignation is not directly related to an ongoing two-year into alleged violations into the baseball program. In February, 2008, former ASU player and graduate manager Mikel Moreno accused the Sun Devils of academic fraud and recruiting violations. Murphy said at the time that he did not expect any major violations to be found.
"It’s been a long, hard couple of years and an arduous process," Love told the Republic on Friday. "Pat is where he is, and we’re where we are. It’s an amicable parting dictated by Pat."
Clearly, there is more to the story.
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