The Merrimack College baseball team’s head coaching position was one of only two Division 1 posts in New England to change hands this offseason, along with the University of Hartford.
Merrimack College alumnus Brian Murphy became the seventh head coach in Merrimack program history in early September, when he accepted the position roughly a month after the dismissal of Nick Barese. Murphy returns home to North Andover after he had four 30-win seasons with William & Mary, five CAA-Tournament appearances and the school’s first NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
Murphy joined the New England Baseball Journal Podcast and talked about the challenging timing of his hire, which actually came after the start of the school year.
“Merrimack was definitely not something on our radar screen,” Murphy said. “Leaving William & Mary was definitely not something on our radar screen. It just kind of happened; the timing was tough. It was tough to leave our guys. We had a good group at William & Mary; those were really difficult conversations. I was there a long time, so I had a lot of deep relationships. We were close to getting started again with a new group. When this job became available … There are 300-some Division 1 programs in the country. I only left for one of them.”
Murphy captained the Merrimack baseball team in 2003, when it was a D2 program in the Northeast-10 Conference. He said the college’s move to Division 1 in recent seasons made his move from William & Mary more of a realistic possibility.
“Obviously, there’s a draw to that,” Murphy said. “Part of it is coming home and being close to my family. We get the kids close to home before it’s harder and harder because we’re established down there. I’m also excited about what’s going on at Merrimack with the Division 1 transition. I get to be a part of building again. Timing is never perfect, and there are challenges right now. We thought this was right for us.”
Murphy has been conducting workouts for the past month without the benefit of assistant coaches. His previous staff at William & Mary, which includes assistant coach Pat McKenna and pitching coach Daniel Sweeney, is in limbo as the administration decides on the next head coach.
“I’m waiting on William & Mary to make a decision,” Murphy said. “I worked with the previous staff at William & Mary for a long time. I’ve talked with them. Out of loyalty and what I think is best for this team, I want to make sure they have a spot. Whether it’s down there, if that’s best for them, or up here, whatever’s best. I’d love to continue to work with them. I think they could make a seamless transition and hit the ground running.”
The Merrimack baseball facilities were a longtime source of frustration for Barese when he served as head coach at Merrimack. Plans for a new baseball field as part of the renovated Merrimack Athletics Complex fell through in 2017, and the Warriors were forced to play home games at various off-campus sites around Massachusetts. In 2020, Merrimack started playing its home games at Greater Lawrence Tech, where the baseball field had been resurfaced with turf.
“Obviously, (the facilities) are a huge question,” Murphy said. “You’re never satisfied and always looking to upgrade. It’s a brand-new turf field. It’s almost never been played on. The COVID year, they didn’t make it to the home field for games. Last year was a weird season, so I think they played fewer than 20 games at home. It’s a turf field, the lights are good, and it gives us an ability to get out in all kinds of weather. It’s a home for us. It’s a place we can get to work in, the surface is good. So far, so good.”
Murphy admitted he is a bit behind on the next incoming class of recruits, and he is still looking to secure commitments from members in the graduating class of 2022.
“We’ve got to know who you are,” Murphy said of recruits. “Some comes from recommendations. Some is on us in terms of reaching out to the folks who know who these guys are. Reach out directly by email, attach a video and a schedule. The video gives a snapshot, and we’ll follow up if there’s interest to see someone in person. I would encourage guys to be as proactive as they can as early in the process as they can.”
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