Last Wednesday, Detroit native and former Eastern Michigan University basketball coach, Rob Murphy, was named the first president and general manager of the newest G League franchise, and fifth NBA D/G League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, the Motor City Cruise.
Murphy brings a lot of experience in working with basketball youth. After obtaining his diploma in 1996 from Central State University – where he, of course, played basketball, being team captain for two years and being named team’s Defensive Player of the Year – he immediately began his coaching career.
First, it was an associate head coaching job at Central High School in Detroit. He started on a very good footing, as Trailblazers were in state finals in 1997 and won Class A state championship the following year. After this success, he decided that it’s time to try being the head man himself so he became the head coach of Motor City’s Crockett Technical High School.
During three seasons with Crockett Tech, he amass a 64–20 record topped by the Detroit Free Press All-Metro Coach of the Year title for guiding his team to Class B state trophy in 2001. Next, in 2002 he move on to the another level and took as an assistant coach at Kent State. With Golden Flashes, he reached the final of MAC Tournament two times and participated in NIT multiple times. In 2004, the Detroit native joined the Syracuse coaching staff, replacing as an assistant his future employer, current Pistons GM Troy Weaver, who then left the Orange to take a coaching position with Utah Jazz. During his eight seasons with Cuse, the team won two Big East Tournament Championship and one Big East Regular Season Championship as well as was three times in Sweet Sixteen on the NCAA Tournament. Finally, in 2011 Rob was named head coach at Eastern Michigan. Here too, he started on a good footing, leading Eagles to its first MAC-West championship and being named MAC Coach of the Year in his debutant season. In 10 seasons, he had three 20+ winning seasons as well as added one second- and three third-place finishes in the conference. His overall record with the Eagles is 166-155.
Now, Rob is taking a new challenge of managing the affairs of a professional basketball club. And we need him to once again start on a good footing. On the one hand, the Cruise will be starting anew. In the coming months, the team will need to find a new coaching staff and fill the roster. And the predecessors, the Grand Rapids Drive, put the bar very high in this respect. In their last season as Pistons affiliate, the team partially owned by Ben Wallace was doing great. The roster was very well matched and coached well by Donnie Tyndall (who, by the way, is now doing a great job coaching at Chipola College to at least a second-place finish in the Panhandle Conference of NJCAA). It’s no surprise that all of the Pistons youngsters assigned to play with the Drive (Sekou Doumbouya, Jordan Bone, Louis King and Donta Hall) displayed considerable skill and got multiple test drives in the NBA.
On the other hand, the Pistons decision to not send neither its affiliated team nor individual players to G League bubble this season has taken its toll. After promising rookie year in the minor league, this year Sekou often seemed to be in a great need of minutes, development and some confidence building in the G League environment. Deividas Sirvydis managed to play only some garbage time. Yet with his eagerness to learn and willingness to play shown even in that garbage time, if he could play some G League games he probably already would show some promise of a second coming of Svi.
I also think that Killian Hayes would be served well by the ability to play some with and against G Leaguers. Throwing him immediately into the deep end of NBA games might have contributed to his injury as he was looking gassed, and thus much more prone to get hurt, in the game in which he torn his labrum. Getting a balance of minutes in both leagues could have offered him a smoother start to his NBA career. Then again, you can never predict much of anything with regard to injuries.
Saben Lee would be able to work on his shooting much more in the minor league than at the NBA level, no matter how much he’s otherwise shown he can hold his own on the court. Frank Jackson would be able to find his rhythm earlier. And Pistons could had couple of other interesting young players around.
Therefore Pistons fans expect a successful start of the new team to make up for all those loses. With his knack for finding talent, Troy Weaver will probably deliver another portion of young, exciting prospects this offseason that the Pistons won’t be able to give appropriate amount of playing time from the get go (editor’s note: Cade Cunningham will likely spend all his time in Detroit, however). So it’ll be crucial that Rob Murphy finds them (and potentially Sekou and Dave) a well-orchestrated team in which they will be able to appropriately grow into their NBA roles. And also is perfectly aligning the Cruise’s player development, strength and conditioning and playbook with the Pistons to ensure the best possible growth and transition from one club to the other.
The task won’t be easy, and the expectations are high, but Rob Murphy proved not once that he can successfully met new challenges. The years of work with basketball youth will be his additional advantage. So, expectantly, the growth of young Pistons prospects won’t be withheld anymore.