HADDON TOWNSHIP – Joe Murphy had already been coaching boys basketball for 18 years when the opportunity arose to switch to the girls game.
His first reaction to becoming the girls head coach at Eastern High School was not positive.
“I was once quoted as saying I would never coach girls basketball,” Murphy said. “When I got the job I was a little resistant.”
Somewhere along the way, however, Murphy altered his thinking.
He has since spent the past 15 seasons coaching the Vikings team, and on Thursday, he reached a milestone victory.
With the Vikings’ 68-34 win over Middle Township at the Carol Stutzen-HarrisTournament played at Paul VI, Murphy achieved his 200th win as a girls’ coach.
“It’s been 15 years now and I’ve never felt more comfortable,” Murphy said. “(Coaching girls basketball) was still exciting and it was still basketball. It was everything that I thought it wasn’t – and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Afterward Thursday's win, Murphy was presented with a small poster decorated with the No. 200 as fans, players and assistant coaches congratulated him for his achievement.
Soon afterward, Murphy took some time to reflect on what the milestone win meant to him.
“I never got into coaching to start counting wins,” he said. “I got into coaching because I enjoy coaching. It was an extension of playing basketball, and that’s how I always viewed it.”
Murphy has had a number of teams reach a level of success, but his best team was put together in 2010 when the squad reached the Group 4 state final and was ranked No. 1 in South Jersey.
His teams have won two sectional championships.
This year’s team is off to a 3-2 start, and features only one senior, Danielle Jackson -- a four-year product of Murphy’s program.
She has come to know Murphy as a man who is dedicated to his game and to his craft.
“He is very passionate,” Jackson said. “He loves the game of basketball, and I think he care for us as players, which is very important for a coach.”
She says Murphy prepares the team well, both in the practice situations and on the fly in game situations.
“He helps us adjust during the games, making sure we can use plays that can help us as a team,” she said. “He has the ability to adjust during the games, and I think he’s very good at that.”
Junior Anna Accardo is currently playing in her third season for Murphy. She was happy to be a part of the milestone win.
“It’s great for him” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment for him, and I’m glad we could do it for him today.”
Like Jackson, Accardo, who scored 10 points Thursday, thinks Murphy is a players’ coach, a man who knows how to help his team win.
“He brings a lot of knowledge to the game,” she said.”He helps us understand, he makes the game fun to play. It’s not always about winning all the time, but it’s also fun and he finds ways to win.”
But the coach is also quick to credit his girls for what they put into the game.
“They come to practice and they work hard,” he said. “You can see that on the floor. They’re running all over the place and trying to make things happen. It’s been a joy to watch.”
Gianna Rullo scored 18 points and Gabby Payne added 17 to lead the Vikings to Thursday’s win. Point guard Kelli McGroarty added eight points with seven assists and six steals.
The Vikings broke the game wide open early in the third quarter by going on an opening 8-0 run to extend a 32-21 halftime lead. Payne and Rullo led the surge with four points each.
Eastern then closed the third quarter with a 7-0 run. McGroarty scored four of the points to give the Vikings a a commanding 54-26 lead.
Kira Sides led Middle Township with 15 points, but she was limited to only two free throws in the second half.
Carol Stutzen-Harris Tournament
Middle Twp. 14 7 5 12 -34
Eastern 16 16 20 14 -68
MT: Kira Sides 15, Kate Herman 6, Aubry Hunter 4, Maddie Barber 6, Bridget McLaughlin 3.
Eastern: Anna Accardo 10, Chyna Brooks 2, Danielle Jackson 9, Kelli McGroarty 8, Gabby Payne 17, Gianna Rullo 18.