ROMULUS — All Uncle Mel can say is, “I am in shock!”
First of all, the unseasonable weather in the month of January is an incredible way to start the year of 2012. Then there is the fact, that Eastern Michigan University baseball season is officially started with practice starting last Friday afternoon under the bubble-dome but that is another story for later.
The biggest head spinning thing that has the city of Ypsilanti taking a double look at the newspaper sport section and then staring at the column is the fact that, Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team is sitting alone in first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.
First year Eagle basketball coach Rob Murphy promised on the day that he took over the program that he was going to change the atmosphere inside the Convocation Center.
“Trust me!” Murphy said at the conclusion of his first meeting with the press after his introduction as the men’s basketball coach at EMU.
There have been many basketball coaches that have been on the side court in front of the bench at Eastern Michigan University that started their career with the same speech and declaration of trust in their idea and philosophy.
Ah yes Uncle Mel remembers the days and nights when Milton Barnes walked among the players at the best field house in the Mid-American Conference to play basketball the old place the Eagles called home – Bowen Fieldhouse.
Barnes arrived in 1996 and stayed four years and his overall record of 62-53 included a trip to the NCAA in 1998 which means there was a Mid-American Conference title.
There were players that would make an impression in the Eagle history.
Uncle Mel recalls the amazing play of Derrick Dial, the outstanding court presences of Earl Boykins and the brute strength of Nkechi Ezugwu.
The victory over Duke University and then the defeat to the No.1 seed the University of Connecticut still a special memory.
Barns a coach on a mission when he arrived and he was still on a mission when he was released from his duties.
Barnes promised his version of Eagle basketball would be a memory to remember.
Stepping onto the Eagle stage after Barnes, a coach from Western Pennsylvania and Robert Morris College, Jim Boone moved to the city of Ypsilanti and the campus of Eastern Michigan University.
Boone promised to make a difference and his teams will be strong on the court and in the classroom.
Eagle fans watched a very vanilla offense and the defense made the fans that sat in the Convocation Center shake there head back-and-forth in disbelief and to wake up.
Many night the fans watched the escapades on the court of Ricky Cottrill and Steve Pettyjohn.
Many Eagle fans watch the Cottrill promise of a grand vision and instead of playing up to his potential, his skills seemed to diminished. Pettyjohn played with a passion for the game and his game looked a lot like former Detroit Piston Bill Laimbeer.
After five years of struggling to gain acceptance from the fans and the students, Boone with an unimpressive record of 48-96 and nothing to show in the post season and it was a matter of time when the axe fell on Boone and he could not get out of town quick enough to suit him.
Enter the rough and rocky road traveled down by Eastern Michigan University basketball fans and watching the implosion of Charles Ramsey.
Ramsey came to the program with great deal of coaching talent unfortunate for Ramsey his talent on courtside did not materialize and with a record of 59-96 and the frequent explosion of emotion Ramsey and his promise of his team making a difference in the Mid-American Conference were fired.
When Murphy arrived for his press conference afer being named as the man in charge of the basketball program at Eastern Michigan University and Uncle Mel believes it is safe to say that the program seemed to be in a state of turmoil.
Murphy said his team is not pretty but they are an energetic team and eager to learn the game and play the game the way it is supposed to be played.
“I have never been part of a team that really didn’t have a go-to-guy. But our guys are working together and that is why defense is so important,” Murphy said. “Everyone can play defense, everyone can get themselves in position to slow things down.”
Murphy is teaching the 2-3 zone defense because it is the defense he is comfortable to teach it to the players on his squad.
“I love man-to-man, hard-nosed man-to-man defense and deny, help type of guy, in-your face pressure, ball pressure,” Murphy said about his defense philosophy. “I also think the 2-3 zone the way we played it at Syracuse is special.”
The zone defense is the 17th ranked defense in the NCAA.
So far nieces and nephews Murphy is earning the trust he desires but also respect.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.