As a burly post player at Umpqua Community College in the mid-1990s, Chad Murray remembers the scenic basketball road trips he took from Southern Oregon to the greater Seattle area.
He always thought he could make the Pacific Northwest a home destination.
And on Thursday, he did.
The 42-year-old Murray was hired as Pacific Lutheran University’s next men’s basketball coach, replacing retiring Steve Dickerson. He will begin his new duties April 11.
Murray has spent the past eight seasons as the coach at another NCAA Division III university — Cornell College in Iowa.
“This wasn’t great timing from a basketball standpoint because I have a pretty good team coming back (at Cornell),” Murray said by phone from Mount Vernon, Iowa. “But from a life standpoint, it was good timing. My wife ... and I are big-city folks.”
Murray becomes the Lutes’ 10th men’s coach all-time — and first plucked directly from NCAA Division III. He also served as an assistant coach at North Central College in Illinois (2004-09), Vassar College in New York (2002-04) and Nebraska Wesleyan University (2001-02).
“Chad’s breadth of experience serving as both an assistant and head coach at Division III programs, as well as his West Coast ties, will allow him to hit the ground running,” Lutes athletic director Laurie Turner said in a released statement.
With all returning starters, Cornell finished 12-12 in the Midwest Conference last season, advancing to the conference tournament for the first time in seven years.
Murray’s best season was his debut in 2009-2010 — 15-11, which is the best record by a first-year Cornell coach. It came a year after the Rams’ last appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament.
A California native, and Fullerton High School graduate, Murray, who is 6-foot-5, came to play at Umpqua CC in Roseberg, Oregon from 1993-95.
After that, he transferred to Chapman University, an NCAA Division III school in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
Dickerson stepped down after 14 seasons at PLU, including the past 11 years as the coach. He won 116 games, which is fourth-most in school history behind Gene Lundgaard (281 wins), Bruce Haroldson (250) and Marv Harshman (235).
The Lutes finished 12-13 last season, and one game out of making the Northwest Conference tournament.