Hoping to have secured a vital component of its rebuilding plan, the Los Angeles Kings today named Terry Murray as their head coach - the 22nd in team history - at a news conference at the team's practice facility in El Segundo. Murray, who turns 58 on Sunday, succeeds Marc Crawford, who was fired June 10, and has ties to Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi, as the two worked together in the Philadelphia Flyers organization from 2002 to 2006.
"We are very pleased that Terry has accepted this challenge," Lombardi said. "He has a wide range of coaching experience and he understands the importance of teaching, which is critical to the building process." Murray takes over a team that tied Tampa Bay with a league low 71 points last season, a task that is not lost on his general manager. "I think this is the toughest job in the National Hockey League right now," Lombardi said.
For his part, Murray seems excited about the prospects of having such a young group of players to send out to battle each night. "I'm coming in to this with my eyes wide open. I know exactly what the process is, to move this along and to get this organization back on track. We have some very good young hockey players in this organization, and we're going to get younger and we are going to bring along those young players at the right time and develop them in the right process so that they can feel success in this NHL," he said.
The younger brother of Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray, Terry Murray has been an assistant coach with the Flyers the last four seasons and has more than 700 games of experience as an NHL head coach on his resume. The Kings have signed him to a three-year deal.
"I am very excited about this opportunity," Murray said. "This will be my biggest challenge as a coach. There is a lot of work ahead and it will take a collective effort to execute the plan we have in place. I am looking forward to training camp and to getting the process under way."
An assistant coach for the Washington Capitals from 1983-84 to 1987-88, Murray was named head coach of Washington's AHL affiliate in Baltimore for a season and a half, starting in 1988-89 before assuming the Capitals' head coaching duties - taking over at midseason from brother Bryan - from 1989-90 to 1993-94. Washington made the playoffs in each of Murray's four full seasons with the team, including a trip to the conference finals in his first season. Murray was replaced in the middle of the 1993-94 season, as Washington sputtered to a 20-23-4 record to start the season. He then worked the balance of that season as the head coach of the IHL's Cincinnati Cyclones before assuming the head coaching duties of the Flyers in 1994-95, a post he held through the 1996-97 season.
The Flyers made the playoffs in all three seasons with Murray at the helm, culminating in a trip to the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals where the team was swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Murray became embroiled in controversy when he was quoted as saying that his team was "basically in a choking situation" following a 6-1 loss in Detroit that put the Flyers in a 3-0 hole in the series. A week after Philadelphia was eliminated, Murray was fired by the team with general manager Bobby Clarke citing "problems that existed between the coach and the players."
The Flyers kept Murray in the organization as a pro scout during the 1997-98 season, a post he held until assuming head coaching duties for the Florida Panthers during the 1998-99 season, replacing brother Bryan, who held the dual title of general manager and interim head coach at the time. Murray led the Panthers to a 98-point season in 1999-00 with 43 wins, however the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, and after Florida won only six of its first 36 games in the 2000-01 season, Murray was fired.
[...] As a player, Murray, a defenseman, played in parts of nine NHL seasons from 1972 to 1982 for the California Golden Seals, Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington. A stay-at-home defenseman, Murray tallied four goals, 76 assists and 199 penalty minutes in 302 NHL games.
Lombardi Opening Statement
[...] The checklist required for this job:
- Number one, a knowledge of the game. I don't think there is anybody who could question, who knows the game and knows the National Hockey League of Murph's respect that he has in terms of understanding the game inside and out.
- Number two, work ethic. I know from experience that his light burns longer than mine and with that I know he is putting in the effort.
- Three, a teacher. For those of you who can remember Murph as a player, he was a smart player who got by on his smarts and his guile and found a way through the years to translate his experience to younger players and veteran players alike.
- Four, he's honest and direct. He knows and distinguishes between those who are kissing his butt and who are hustling his butt. He won't always tell them what they want to hear, but in the end it is about trusting him and trusting that he wants to make you better.
- Five, he is about structure on and off the ice in everything we do.
- Six, the ability to communicate, and when I say communicate, when you have 80 players on your reserve list, it is up to everybody in the franchise to be able to communicate with the players. But the importance of the head coach in communication is establishing the message from the trenches and finding a way to delegate it so that it goes out clearly and concisely and on the same page.
- Seven, understanding the meaning of culture. I don't think it is any coincidence that three of the four teams in the Stanley Cup Finals have a history of winning. Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia are teams that have established a culture that I think is invaluable. It is that five or ten percent that makes you a little better than your competition and I think having watched Terry through the years and to see where he's been, he understands the larger picture of building a culture as well as a team.
- Lastly, the issue of character. I don't think character is what you say, it is what you do. I think sometimes the most revealing test of character is how you handle adversity. When you are in athletics the meaning of character is to be the best you can be and be a teammate. When Murph was not coaching, he didn't go out and promote himself. He accepted a job within the organization, asked his role, and went out and did it, to do everything he could to help the organization to win. It wasn't beneath him to be a scout. He went out and learned and saw the bigger picture by sitting in the rinks and studying other teams. When he was asked to be an assistant coach, he assisted one of the most successful current coaches in Ken Hitchcock, and went out there and did his job every night for the best of the team. And then he assisted in breaking in one of the top young coaches in the game in John Stevens. And that is character. It was all about the team and not himself.
There is no question that Murph met the checklist and I am pleased to introduce him to the Los Angeles Kings.
Murray Opening Statement
This is very exciting for me and my family to be come a part of this organization. I'm coming in to this with my eyes wide open. [...] I know exactly what the process is, to move this along and to get this organization back on track. We have some very good young hockey players in this organization, and we're going to get younger and we are going to bring along those young players at the right time and develop them in the right process so that they can feel success in this NHL. It is a very, very difficult league to play in; it's a man's league, but I'm looking forward to putting in the time and effort to help develop these young hockey players to become the very best that they can.
This process that I have been through the last couple of weeks with the interview and meetings with Dean and Hexy has been very revealing to me. The amount of work that has been put into this organization since the end of the season until now has been absolutely incredible. I see the amount of time that has been put in by these two people and the other people from the organization sitting in this room today. I know that from this point forward, we as a coaching staff are required to put in the same amount of time for the process of bringing these players along. It is going to be hard, I'll tell you that right now and be upfront about it. I know it is going to be difficult and I know there are going to be some very long nights, but as we work our way through the process and come out on the other side, we are going to have some young players who are going to be the core players of this hockey club and they are going to take ownership of this hockey club. [...]
Q&A With Terry Murray
[...] On his coaching philosophy:
"My philosophy coming in after going to teams to coach that were going through tough times is patience, communication, development, on-ice structure. I'm very big on the details side of things. It is developing a core group of players, the leadership group that I want to have as the liaisons that can carry the message from my office into the locker room. There's a lot of things that I think need to be set in place in order to start getting things to work the right way. [...] I see Dustin Brown sitting here today and players like him and the young guys on this hockey club and helping to accelerate that it will make the head coaching job a little easier."
On his young defensemen:
"We know defenseman is a difficult position to play for a young player. It is going to take everyone on the ice, the whole team to help develop the young players, especially defenseman. In system-style play, we really need the forwards to help out on the defensive part of the game for those young defensemen to have success. They can't be isolated and left on their own facing odd situations coming at them with a lot of speed. The game has that today more than ever, the speed coming at them and decision-making has to be a reaction. We'll get the young defensemen going in the right direction and the confidence in their games that they need so that they can contribute as we start to move forward here."
On the Kings job being the most difficult in the NHL:
"The head coaching job is real hard whether you are coaching a top team in the NHL, your job with all of that good talent and expectations really high, it is no different for the teams that have not made the playoffs. The expectations are to develop the players and to become better."