Sun | Sports By Eric D. Williams, Sun Staff — Jan 7th, 2001 * At his basketball clinics, former OC assistant Craig Murray stresses fundamentals Ask Craig Murray a question about basketball and a light switches on behind his eyes. He wants to tell you something.
All you have to do is listen.
More times than not, you'll find that Murray already has travelled down that treacherous path you find yourself shakily trying to navigate.
Murray has been around basketball all his life, developing a laser-like feel for the game he has played on the blacktop since he could dribble.
Murray has lived in the West Sound for nine years. Eight of those years he spent working as an assistant coach with Olympic College basketball coach Barry Janusch.
Now, he's set to branch out on his own, starting "Total Package" basketball clinics - individual and group basketball instruction geared toward helping players improve their basketball skills. During his stint at OC, Murray helped develop several talented players such as Belfair's Billy Landram, who currently plays at San Jose State University, and James Clark, who now is playing at Montana State University.
Currently, Murray is working with several younger players in the area, including highly-touted North Kitsap High point guard Marc McNall and Central Kitsap's Nicole Zygmontowicz. Murray says he focuses on improving fundamentals within the constructs of team basketball. "It's kids striving for their potential," Murray said. "I want people around the area, coaches especially, to understand that I'm not trying to coach their kids. Because I don't want to step on anybody's toes. I'm trying to help their kids become better individual basketball players.
"I work on fundamentals. I think if there's anything that I work on now that's the most important, it is the fundamentals. Because fundamentals are lost today."
Murray graduated from Garfield High in Seattle in 1986, where he played point guard and led the Bulldogs to a Class 3A state basketball title under longtime Garfield coach and current University of Washington assistant Al Hairston. Murray credited Hairston's discipline and structured approach to the game in his early basketball development.
"I played with a lot of guys who had a lot of different philosophies - guys who had worked for big-time coaches," Murray said. "But I think he (Hairston) is the best coach overall that I've ever had. I learned a lot of discipline from him. And that to me goes a long way." Murray went on to play at the University of Hawaii for two years, transferring to Idaho State University in Pocatello after his sophomore season.
Murray redshirted a year at Idaho State, which he said was one of the hardest things he had to do.
However, Murray said the year off proved fruitful.
"It was the best thing I ever did," Murray said. "I truly started understanding the game because I had to sit back and watch it a little bit more. I understood that I was a point guard. And that's probably an advantage that point guards have because you have to understand everybody else's game besides your own. You're the one with the ball in your hands 90 percent of the time making decisions."
During his four years competing in college, Murray played for four different coaches, including Frank Arnold, who coached Danny Ainge at Brigham Young University and worked under John Wooden at UCLA. Murray said he took a piece of each coach he played for, using those experiences to help develop his own coaching identity.
"I was able to pick up all these different things," Murray said. "I didn't take their whole philosophy, but I picked what I wanted to use from these guys that I had been under. And I learned how to teach a player, and how not to teach a player."
Murray became friends with Janusch at Idaho State, where Janusch worked as an assistant coach. Janusch actually recruited Murray when he was at Garfield, but lost out to the swaying palm trees in Honolulu. After Murray graduated, Janusch soon got an offer to coach at Olympic, and invited Murray to come along to Bremerton.
Murray has been here ever since.
Janusch said he knew Murray had the potential to be a good coach and teacher of the game. "He sees things and notices what people are doing," Janusch said. "For someone that is not a real analytical kind of person he's really technical with basketball. He can take a guy's handle and say something like, 'If you cut this down 3 inches it's going to make you a step quicker in the long run.'
"And he's willing to put in the effort and the time to throw you the passes and make you do it until it becomes a habit. He's very patient."
Murray said one of his strengths is his ability to communicate.
"One of the reasons I'm able to do what I do now is because I can communicate what I'm thinking in a way that each person that I'm dealing with can understand," Murray said. "I think just being able to relate to people is important. A lot of coaches have a hard time. They understand the game but they can't communicate it as well in a way that relates to everybody."
Opportunities have been presented for Murray to coach at the NCAA Division I level, but he has turned them down because of the rigorous workload and little time to work with players on an individual basis.
For now, Murray is intent on making the "Total Package" work, creating his own niche in the West Sound basketball community. Murray said he has a couple interested investors and is looking for property to build his own gym to house his basketball camps.