Memphis assistant also has deep ties to UA

Josh Pastner isn't the only Memphis coach especially looking forward to Friday's first round NCAA Tournament game, as his assistant Jack Murphy also has deep ties to UA. He talks to

The biggest storyline for Friday's Arizona vs. Memphis first round NCAA tournament matchup is going to be Josh Pastner taking on his old school.

However, to Pastner's best friend and assistant coach, the game will be just as meaningful.

But Jack Murphy, who spent eight years at Arizona from 1998 to 2006 in roles from manager to recruiting coordinator to administrative assistant to video coordinator to director of basketball operations before leaving for the Denver Nuggets, has more ties to UA than just his experience in Tucson.

Murphy's father in law is Jim Livengood, as he's married and has a pair of twins with the former UA athletic director's daughter, Michelle.

So when Murphy saw that he would be going up against Arizona, it elicited many of the same emotions as Pastner.

"When Arizona popped up and I saw the game was going to be in Tulsa and they were going to be a 5-seed playing a 12, I knew it would be us," Murphy said. "I just had a feeling. I know everyone is saying that they called it but I called it a couple seconds before it flashed up.

"I guess my initial reaction was a little bit of excitement just because I know those guys so well. Not just the coaches but also the players. That's my alma mater; I've always followed Arizona and continue to do even now because the games are on at night when I get home.

"I have a good relationship with Sean (Miller), James Whitford, Archie (Miller) and the guys on the staff. I think my initial reaction was excitement but then once I got back to the office and started watching more and more tape, the excitement kind of died down."

Not only Will Murphy be around so many people he knows when the UA coaches, players, administration and fans get to Tulsa, but due to another team that will be playing in the city, he'll be surrounded by plenty of family as well.

"UNLV is there and luckily we're not playing UNLV," Murphy said of the school that now employs Livengood as athletic director. "That's the one thing. I'd hate to be playing UNLV in terms of that family with Jim.

"Her, my wife and my girls and Jim and Linda are going to be able to come to the game, so that's exciting that the entire family is going to be there because UNLV is in the same pod. Rather than Memphis-Arizona, Jim is more excited about UNLV being in the same pod as Memphis."

Like Pastner, Murphy has followed the UA program closely since leaving and to this day remains thankful for his time in Tucson.

"I love Arizona," he said. "I loved my time there and it's really helped shape who I am and where I am today because of my relationships with people at Arizona and my experiences there, especially in college. Coming back to Memphis and college basketball, my only experience I had in college was at Arizona. It's definitely deeply rooted.

"With that being said, you have a job to do and your job is to win games, prepare and coach these athletes to do the best they can. As much as any coach is, I'm a competitor, and it doesn't matter who it is on the other bench, you're gonna want to win.

"I think on Monday and even on Sunday after the announcement, that's what it boils down to, trying to figure out a way that we can win."

Even though he'll be doing his best to try and knock the Wildcats out of the NCAA tournament, Murphy has admired the job that the UA coaching staff has done in Tucson and is confident in what Sean Miller will do moving forward.

"They've done unbelievable," Murphy said. "To have that program back in the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus and to have pretty much the exact same team as they did last year, to take a team that was around .500 last year as freshmen and this year to win the Pac-10 as sophomores, that's pretty amazing.

"Not only getting the players in there initially when they first got the job, but also the job he's done since then, coaching up those players, developing them, along with his great staff, they've done an amazing job. The future is definitely bright in Tucson."

Pastner and Murphy's friendship was well known in Tucson, and when Pastner was hired as Memphis head coach, it was predetermined that he'd be bringing Murphy along with him to be an assistant.

It's always rewarding to successfully rebuild a program, but when you're going through it with one of your best friends, it becomes even more fun.

"It's been awesome," Murphy said. "It's been a whirlwind, there's no doubt about it, but it's been amazing to do it as quickly as we've done it and with somebody like Josh because Josh is just a person that makes you want to be a better person.

"He's a person that makes you want to work a little bit harder. Even if you're a hard worker, you want to go the extra mile for Josh. To win, especially on Saturday to win the conference title like we did, to come back at UTEP on their court, to do that with Josh, that's a moment I'll have the rest of my life.

"At Arizona we had some great wins and some times where we were just going crazy after wins, but it just seems like we've had more of an impact on it here, along with the rest of the staff, just because it's been a rebuilding situation. You're not under a Lute Olson, you're kind of shaping your own way. That's been a lot of fun."

While the Arizona game is Memphis' main concern, it's hard not for Murphy to look ahead and see what should be a successful near future for the Tigers.

"We've very young," he said. "We're the third or fourth youngest team in college basketball and we're the youngest team in the NCAA tournament. I have a good belief that we're going to have a lot of these guys back next year.

"We only have one senior and we're bringing in an outstanding player in Adonis Thomas, who is a McDonald's All-American and we have Ferrakohn Hall transferring in. I think the future is bright, not only next year but the years beyond.

"The talent here in Memphis in terms of local recruiting is outstanding and I think the Memphis name nationally is as good as it's ever been. The future is definitely bright."

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