By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The men's and women's swimming and diving program is taking a new approach to fall training under new head coach Tim Murphy, who has spent the last 15 years of his career leading Harvard.
Murphy grew up playing multiple sports on all different levels but when it came time for college, swimming was the sport he did all four years. By his senior year, Murphy took on a leadership role as captain and learned first hand from his head coach Chuck Pagano what it was like to be a student-athlete. These experiences would later contribute to his development as an aspiring coach.
"I was fortunate to have a tremendous head coach to swim for in college," Murphy said. "Chuck taught me what it was like to be a college athlete and to really take an opportunity as special as that is. Everything I took out of my time at West Chester has played a role in getting me to this point."
After graduating from West Chester in 1979, Murphy took what he learned as a student-athlete and broke onto the coaching scene. He started at the college level by becoming the head coach for Ursinus College in Pennsylvania and later served as an assistant coach at his alma mater.
With the experience of coaching college swimming for a few years, Murphy transitioned into coaching club swimming to gain even more exposure with different ages of swimmers. He led the nationally renowned Wilton YMCA Wahoos for 13 years and earned seven national championship titles with the team.
"Coaching has always been the best part of my day, the most fun part of my day so to be able to turn it into a lifelong occupation has been very fortunate and goes back to the coaches that I had and the people I've affiliated with along the way," Murphy said.
Spending more than a decade with the Wahoos and earning the title of YMCA National Coach of the Year in 1989, Murphy set himself up for another major transition in his coaching career - this time from club swimming back into college swimming at Harvard. He led the Crimson teams to a compiled 122-11 dual meet record over his 15 seasons and finished his last three seasons with Top 20 ranked recruiting classes.
With Murphy dedicating all of his time since the 1998-1999 season to Harvard, the decision to leave the program he helped build didn't come easy.
"It was a difficult decision in terms of making a decision to leave there," Murphy said. "I'd been at a great university working with a great group of coaches and administrators where I put my heart and soul into my work. But as I explained it to the team in the email I sent out - I told them I write this note with a heavy heart. There are few things I love more than my work and the people I work with, but the thing I do love more than that is my wife and my family."
After going to high school in New Jersey, attending college in Pennsylvania, and having family ties in Scranton and Philadelphia, Murphy factored in the location of Penn State when deciding to make the move from Cambridge, Mass. to University Park, Pa.
"At this point in time, it was what's best for me and my family and we made the decision to come back to Pennsylvania," Murphy said. "There are very few places, I would have gone from Harvard. First and foremost, [Penn State] a great educational institution so being associated with and affiliated with an institution like this is a tremendous honor for me."
Another factor that drew Murphy to take the position to lead the Nittany Lions was the sense of family and friendly atmosphere everyone associated with Penn State exhibits.
"Anyone that I've ever run into that's gone to school here or worked here or lived in the area, I've heard nothing but positives and their time here was put in very affectionate terms," Murphy said. "That just speaks well of a tremendous university and most importantly the people that are here. The mission the school has and how well the folks that are working here to accomplish that mission makes it wonderful to be welcomed here."
With a new leader taking the reigns, it's easy to wonder what changes the program will undergo. However, Murphy presented the swimmers and divers with a different way of looking at the situation. Instead of looking at changes from the coaches, he wants the athletes to approach their work differently.
"I'm not looking for them to be the same athletes, the same students they were last year and have the change just be from a coaching standpoint," Murphy said. "This isn't about me, this is about them. Any changes that are going to impact the program is going to come from the student-athletes."
Most recently, Murphy brought a new face to the program adding Doak Finch, who spent 11 seasons coaching as an assistant for the University of Virginia focusing mostly on the distance swimmers. While Finch brings experience from a top ACC school to the program, the athletes have familiarity with assistant coach Liz McMillian, who helped ease the transition as she enters her sixth season.
"Liz has been an integral part of the success of this program," Murphy said. "I've known her for a while so I have tremendous respect for her coaching ability. Watching her work with the athletes and interact with them shows we're real fortunate to have her here and continue to be a part of this program. She's already established to be an enormous asset to the student-athletes and has played a huge role helping me transition."
In his first two weeks as head coach, Murphy told the team that he wanted them to take the initiative and demonstrate the value that they attach to being here and supporting their teammates through different leadership roles.
"This is an opportunity for them to set the attitude, set they way they are going to do things, challenge each other, and hold each other accountable," Murphy said. "I've asked the senior class to understand they're going to play a major role in the success of the program this year and that this is their opportunity to make a lasting impact to give back to the team."
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Murphy has a passion to bring life to the rich history of swimming and diving while keeping Penn State's mission and values in mind.
"There's a lot of work to be done, but this is a great place to be and I'm looking forward to helping the university accomplish its mission," Murphy said. "I'm hoping to give the athletes a sense of the historical aspect of the program. The folks that came before have created the opportunity for them. I'm hoping that the values they attach will be demonstrated by their actions. If we do that, some good things are going to happen this year."
Taking a Look into Coach Murphy's Career
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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