Patrick Murphy’s change of heart sends LSU?back to search

Dave Moormann

Oops, I made a mistake.

Without getting into the head of Patrick Murphy, he must have been thinking along those lines when he returned to Alabama two days after being introduced as LSU’s new softball coach.

While rare, it’s not unprecedented for a coach to have a change of heart.

Billy Donovan actually had signed a contract with the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2007 when he returned to Florida where he still coaches the men’s basketball team.

Bobby Cremins backed out on his announced decision to take over the South Carolina men’s basketball program only to remain at Georgia Tech.

Others have been guilty of jumping the gun, too. In December of 1994, LSU officials planned to call a press conference to introduce Pat Sullivan as the Tigers’ next football coach. When Sullivan couldn’t satisfy the terms of his buyout clause at Texas Tech, the whole thing was called off.

That’s how Vanderbilt’s Gerry DiNardo became the successor to Curley Hallman and the predecessor to Nick Saban.

With the $225,000 it was willing pay to Murphy, LSU is certain to find a qualified coach. Getting one as successful as Murphy will be no easy task, however.

Murphy led Alabama to a Women’s College World Series third-place finish this past season and in 13 seasons has guided the Crimson Tide to a 712-210 overall record. Alabama’s 53-11 mark this past season represented its nine consecutive year with 50 or more wins.

What’s more, Murphy and assistant coach Alyson Habetz had area ties. Murphy once had been top assistant to retiring LSU coach Yvette Girouard when Girouard was at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Habetz had played for Girouard’s 1993 ULL team that reached the WCWS after Habetz’s career at Notre Dame of Crowley where she became the state’s first female to play baseball.

As a Hall of Fame coach, Girouard gave LSU’s program the stability and acclaim it lacked before she arrived. She took LSU to the WCWS twice in her 11-year career and stepped down after having coached her teams to 30 consecutive winning seasons.

LSU is sure to recover from the slight embarrassment, but it’s disappointing to realize the Tigers had made quite a catch only to have him slip away.

Lost in all this, though, is the fact that LSU recently hired a coach who remains committed to revitalizing his new program.

The LSU baseball team failed to reach the NCAA Tournament, but Alan Dunn still thought enough of the Tigers’ rich tradition to resign as the Baltimore Orioles pitching coordinator in favor of becoming the Tigers’ new pitching coach.

In fact, the Tigers’ latest stumble may have influenced Dunn’s decision. LSU is too talented to be absent from postseason play, and Dunn can help the Tigers return to their place of prominence.

Goodness knows LSU has the resources to succeed. It’s not often a pitching coach can walk into a situation where he has pitchers as talented as Kurt McCune and Kevin Gausman.

Despite their freshmen status, McCune and Gausman were the Tigers’ top pitchers this past season. With a 7-3 record and 3.31 earned run average, McCune was LSU’s leader in overall wins and ERA for a starter.

Gausman was next at 5-6 and 3.51, although his record should have been much better given his ERA. Junior reliever Matty Ott is likely to return after the Boston Red Sox selected him in the 13th round of the Major League Baseball Draft.

In 22 years as a professional pitching coach, Dunn has instructed more than 25 players who have advanced to the major league level. Dunn doesn’t necessarily have to turn his pupils into major leaguers, but he has been entrusted to improve upon the Tigers’ showing under David Grewe, who resigned after the season to pursue other career interests.

The baseball team got the coach it wanted. The softball team still is looking.