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Thinking Outside The Box

Mike Murphy is in his eighth season as an assistant coach with the Army lacrosse team. Under his tutelage, the Black Knights have consistently been ranked among the nation's top defenses, while he has also guided some of the most prolific goalkeepers in Academy history. A native of Beverly, Massachusetts, Murphy graduated from New Hampshire in 1996 where he was a three-year lacrosse letterman for the Wildcats.

April 26, 2011

“Pops”, Promise, and the Patriot League

As I gather my thoughts to write the blog every week I usually refer back to the previous week for some inspiration.  Due to the Easter Holiday and an unusually hectic Monday morning I was not able to start my blog until late Monday night.  Normally I get most of it written after our Monday lunch film session, but that just didn’t happen.  So after putting Colin to bed Monday night I sat at our dining room table and broke out the home laptop to write this week’s blog.

I opened up my “secondary” blog file and found the blog I wrote after last year’s Patriot League tournament.  As I read the opening paragraph all the memories came rushing back, but not the ones you would expect.

There it was in the third paragraph… “Monday’s practice was dampened at the news of the loss of a great friend to the Army family. Gene Uchacz had lost his 10 month battle with Leukemia. Coach Alberici told the guys after practice and explained what kind of man Gene was.”

I could not believe it, it had been a whole year since we lost Gene Uchacz.   

“Pops” as many of the coaches referred to Gene was our game day operations man. He was the man who made sure everything was taken care of on game day. When I say everything, I mean everything.  Game day operations don’t just happen day-of. The planning that goes into putting on an athletic event, especially here at West Point can be mind-boggling. Gene always made sure the coaches just had to worry about coaching the game. He was a staple in our athletic department and a true Army fan. He loved lacrosse; he was a former coach and player and just enjoyed being around our program. 

Gene and I had a common allegiance, we were both New Englanders … so we would celebrate and agonize over our beloved Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and especially for Gene the Red Sox every fall, winter, spring and summer. I can only imagine how “nuts” Gene was during the Red Sox not-so-glorious start to this season. 

Gene was truly an angel on our shoulder during the 2010 Patriot League Tournament. Gene will always look down on his beloved Black Knights and not just the ones on the lacrosse field. I know he must have been tickled black and gold at Army football’s bowl win, and I know he was all smiles with every Army victory this year over Navy. I can only imagine the grin on his face when we completed our comeback at Navy two weeks ago. We miss you, Gene!

He was a wonderful role model for me as a young coach. Gene was a true professional, no job was ever too unimportant and no request too insignificant. We ask our players to strive to be West Point Men, and we define that by expecting pride, dedication and mental toughness.  Gene was truly a West Point Man and will always be a part of everything we do here at the Academy.  
At the start of every year during the very first team meeting, Coach Alberici goes down the upcoming season’s schedule, giving a preview of what can be expected and what will be needed for us to be successful. Without fail, some plebe or a new OR to the program will ask him why we don’t list the Patriot League Tournament dates on the schedule. And without fail he tells them that those dates have to be earned, they are not promised.

Coach A always tells the boys they are only promised 14 games. That’s what they get no matter what. If you want more, you have to earn it. You have to dedicate yourself to do what your opponent will not. You have to sacrifice what others are unwilling to, and you have to commit yourself to something bigger than yourself. All the while knowing that it might just not be enough!

 With the win at Navy we secured our place in the Patriot League Tournament. The league tournament gives you a shot to automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament and contend for a national title. 

 We earned another week to be together as a team, another week to be an Army lacrosse player. This season has been a roller coaster. Tough losses and exciting wins have led us to the moment we all work for … the chance to continue on. 

Tournament time is always exciting, it’s win and move on or lose and go home.

As we put the finishing touches on last week’s practice, Matt Marasco stepped into the team circle and reminded the guys that not only were we playing Holy Cross on Saturday, but we were starting our playoff run. We needed to show Bucknell, Colgate and Lehigh that we were ready to defend our title.  The guys put a very workmen-like effort into a 10-7 victory in Worcester, Mass.  The weather was brutal.  The rain would not stop, and I think it got colder as the game went on. But true to their Army roots, the Black Knights made one mention of the rain and that was to say, “if it aint rainin’ we aint trainin.’”  I’m sure I going to catch some grief for including that quote!

Our POG’s for Holy Cross were Bill Henderson and Conor Hayes. Billy was very good covering the Crusaders top offensive threat and limited him to one assist. Conor had his best day of the season, scoring three goals, riding hard and picking up some key ground balls. The previous practice week was great. There was no hang over from the Navy win. The boys were very business-like in their preparations for Holy Cross. They knew that even though the Crusaders were having a tough year, they were a capable team that possessed enough weapons to beat us if we were not at our best. For their approach, the coaching staff voted the team as the PPOW’s.

Immediately after the Holy Cross game, Coach Alberici, Coach Diange and I got in the car and travelled to Hamilton, N.Y., to watch Colgate vs. Bucknell. It was a great opportunity for us to scout our next opponent. It would also let us know where we were going and who we were playing. Going into the game, Colgate and Bucknell were both undefeated in the league. The winner of the game would host the tournament, and Army would draw the loser. 

The game was very closely contested in the first half. Bucknell was very dominant in the second half and secured a 12-7 win and the right to host the tournament. We will now face Colgate in the opening round on Friday at 5 p.m. in Lewisburg, Pa.

We are facing a talented team which beat us 13-11 only three weeks ago. Colgate is led on offense by Peter Baum, Rob Bosco, Ben McCabe and Andrew Mould just to name a few. They have a great faceoff man in Jimmy Carroll and a stout defense that is backed by junior goalie Jarred Madison. They are a very well-coached team. I think the opening game will set the tone for an exciting Patriot League Tournament.

The winner of Army vs. Colgate will play the winner of Bucknell vs. Lehigh on Sunday at 3:00 p.m., but we don’t talk about that … we are only promised this one.

We are going to need you this week more than ever, “Pops!”

It’s Colgate for #1.

Coach Murph
“If you want unusual results, you need unusual behavior.”

Previous Entries

Oct. 14, 2010
Jan. 27, 2011
Feb. 4, 2011
Feb. 10, 2011
Feb. 14, 2011
Feb. 22, 2011
March 1, 2011
March 8, 2011
March 15, 2011
March 22, 2011
March 29, 2011
April 5, 2011
April 12, 2011
April 19, 2011


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