Gateway: Sports

After five seasons and a state title, Gig Harbor girls basketball coach Murray stepping down

Gig Harbor High School coach Megan Murray in a regional round game of the Class 3A state tournament against Edmonds-Woodway at Mount Tahoma High School on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.
Gig Harbor High School coach Megan Murray in a regional round game of the Class 3A state tournament against Edmonds-Woodway at Mount Tahoma High School on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. jmanley@gateline.com

After five seasons at the helm of the Gig Harbor High School girls basketball program, Megan Murray as stepping down as the team’s head coach.

Murray cited spending more time with her kids — Marcus (12) and Kinsey (9) — as the biggest reason behind the decision.

“It’s just been over the course of the last couple of years, our family dynamics change,” Murray said. “You just get busier all the time with your kids. With my husband coaching (at Olympic College), one of us has to have some more freedom.”

Murray, who runs Total Package Basketball training out of Port Orchard, said she’s also shifting her focus more toward her career and working full-time. She informed the team of her decision after the basketball season ended.

“That was way harder than I thought it would be,” Murray said. “That was a really emotional time. People have emailed and called me and been extremely supportive. It’s hard to grasp and not get emotional about it. They’re like a second family. It was beyond difficult. With my life experiences, it was one of the hardest decisions I had to make.”

It’s hard to call Murray’s run at Gig Harbor anything less than a resounding success. In five seasons, she coached the Tides to two league titles, a district tile and in 2018, the program’s first state title. She was named the coach of the year in the Class 3A South Sound Conference in 2017 and was named the 3A state coach of the year in 2018 by the Washington State Girls Basketball Association.

Murray compiled 91-28 record at Gig Harbor.

“I’m just proud of where the program was and where I was able to take it to and help it grow,” Murray said. “I think one of the things walking into Gig Harbor, there wasn’t a huge interest with girls basketball in the area. When I went in, we barely had enough to make two teams.”

Murray also helped grow the school’s feeder program, which previously had one girls team with seven girls on it. Now, there are six teams with over 60 girls, playing basketball. For Murray, that meant a lot of long days and nights at the high school, overseeing the feeder program and helping coach all levels.

“I just wanted to grow it,” Murray said. “I had girls that were going off to Bellarmine and Peninsula, but I didn’t care. I just wanted girls playing basketball.”

Murray has watched two of the program’s best players go through the program the past couple years. Maddie Willett, who is currently starring at Cal Poly, graduated in 2018. And now Brynna Maxwell, The News Tribune’s 2019 All-Area player of the year, is graduating this spring and is off to Utah, where she’ll play in the Pac-12.

And while that could make for a challenge in 2019-20, Murray insisted it had nothing to do with her decision to leave.

“People have asked me that — the answer is not at all,” Murray said. “I had no clue those kids were coming to the high school when I got the job. That wasn’t something I looked at. It was something, I just wanted to coach high school basketball. I don’t frankly care who comes walking through my door. I was lucky to have those kids back to back.

“The group that’s coming in next year has some talent, too. I’ve worked with those girls in the feeder program. It was hard. I would never base anything off of talent or anything like that. I’ve always believed I can be successful with whoever is in the gym. It comes down to coaching, discipline and philosophy.”

Of all the memories Murray made at Gig Harbor High School, few can compare to winning the 2018 state title.

“I still think about it,” she said. “When I see pictures or little video clips, I just think, ‘Wow, what an amazing accomplishment.’ The thing I think I remember the most about it, when we got to the Dome is how poised and calm the girls were. I credit them, it kept me calm as a coach. Anytime I can go into a big game and be calm, it’s awesome.”

She’ll also miss the little things.

“The daily grind of practices, team camaraderie, the travel,” Murray said. “I think it comes down to just knowing who the girls are, missing being part of their lives.”

Murray said her immediate focus is to just sit in the stands and be a parent, for now. And she didn’t rule out a possible return to coaching someday.

“The passion is still there,” Murray said. “It had nothing to do with that. I’m taking a little break to watch my kids grow up and once they’re done with that, I hope to get back into it.”

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