It’s been almost 48 hours, and it’s possible the adrenaline of winning a state championship is starting to wear off, just not the smiles.
Gig Harbor girls basketball coach Megan Murray guided the Tides to their first state championship at the Class 3A tournament with a thrilling 51-48 win against Garfield over the weekend at the Tacoma Dome.
The Port Orchard resident, who with her husband Craig Murray, the Olympic College men’s basketball coach, run Total Package, an AAU program in Kitsap.
“I had been emotional the entire day, holding back tears, knowing we were playing in the state title game,” Murray said. “I thought for sure the last eight seconds I was going to lose it … shock just set in. What just happened?”
Murray is prepared for an onslaught of emotions to appear at any moment.
“I know it’s coming the next couple of days, once I get settled down there will be tears,” she said.
Among the diverse mix of emotions one would expect before a championship game, Murray said nerves weren’t one of them. She credits her players for that.
“We kind of all had just a good vibe going,” she said, “they’re such a great team, they’re all friends, they all get along.”
Was she surprised? Yes and no. No, because she knew her players were prepared, and yes because nothing is a sure thing.
“It is everyone’s goal,” Murray said of winning a state title. “When I got started I didn’t know who I was going to have. I always had select kids. When you go into a high school, you just get those kids (coming) into the high school. Ultimately, I didn’t know it was going to happen that quickly in my career.”
Megan Murray look at what you and the Gig Harbor Lady Tides just did!!! State 3A championship for the Port Orchard resident and former @fOCus_Athletics player and coach! Congratulations on your 51-48 win over Garfield!!! pic.twitter.com/G8kY93xiZL
— Annette Griffus (@AnnetteWSSports) March 4, 2018
But for anyone who has followed Murray’s coaching career, or has been coached by her, her success shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Murray was recruited from Yakima (Grandview High) by then-head coach Dave Sturgeon at OC and was an all-conference guard for the Rangers averaging 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. She went on to have a successful two seasons at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, earning the Coaches’ Award and was the team’s fourth-leading scorer (8.2 ppg) and was second on the team in assists (92) her senior season.
She became an assistant at Olympic College under Rick Peters who, in 2004, resigned due to a job change that sent him to the east coast. Murray, who was still Megan Buchmann then and engaged to Craig, took over at the request of OC athletic director Barry Janusch.
Murray led the Rangers to back-to-back NWAC tournaments and a 38-21 overall record, before shifting her focus to Total Package. She coached select teams in various nationally-sanctioned tournaments and the wins kept coming.
Since taking over at Gig Harbor four years ago, Murray and her coaching staff and volunteers have built a program that now includes seven feeder teams from high school to the fourth-grade level. That’s been the goal from day one — to have kids coming into the high school well-versed in the system Murray runs.
Just like during her playing days, Murray had to put in the work to become a good coach. Some of it was instinctual, she said, but she reads a lot, watches games and game film. She’s a student of the game.
“Some is by feel,” Murray said. “I’ve just learned after so many years, so many different situations. I love what I do, and if I ever stop learning, I’m done.”
Her coaching role models include Pat Summit, the legendary former coach at Tennessee and her husband. Even when she first met Craig, she spotted right away how he interacted with his players and they agreed to run their program by teaching the players to always put the team first.
“You can always learn something from what everybody taught you,” she said.
“At the end of the day when the passion and drive is there, you know you’re meant to keep coaching.”