By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
One final question had to be answered as Matt Murray and his family prepared to move.
“I looked at our son Reed, who will be 3, and said ‘Hey Reed, we’re moving to Pittsburg, Kansas,’ ” Murray said. “He said, ‘Dad, can I bring my toys?’ ”
Murray, an assistant coach at Central Missouri the last six years, was introduced Tuesday morning as the Gorillas’ new head baseball coach in a press conference in the Jack Overman Student Center.
“I’ve always had an eye on this area and Pittsburg State University ever since I was little,” said Murray, who turns 38 next month.. “My brother (Glen) was going to high school in Claremore and was a football player. I can recall fairly vividly he received a media guide in 1984 or ’85 from Pitt State. I remember looking at Gus the Gorilla. His arms were up, and the fans were going crazy.
“It might have been that. I really don’t know. ... Doing the research, it’s just a great, great area. Not only for baseball but for other activities and for families, for the experience of the college student. I couldn’t see a better place in my mind.”
Murray, who follows Al Ortolani and Steve Bever as the only head coaches in the program’s 33-year history, signed his contract last Friday at Royals Stadium.
“It had a lot of sentimental value to it,” Murray said. “When I was growing up, I have four brothers and part of our summer vacation was Dad would take us up to the Kansas City Royals game. He would load us up in a van, all five of us were redheads, and we would go.
“That’s probably in my mind where I developed a great passion for baseball is to watch George Brett and those guys and stay down in the Plaza area with the family. To have an opportunity to visit with Dr. (Steve) Scott (PSU president) and Jim Johnson (PSU athletics director) and have the contract (signed there) was really special.”
During his interview, Murray outlined one-year, two-year and five-year plans for his program.
“We were looking for somebody who had a vision and had a plan for what Gorilla baseball could be in what is going to be a new MIAA, moving into a new region and place our baseball program along with our other sports on a national stage,” Johnson said. “We wanted someone who could develop and train players, who could organize and develop a coaching staff. We wanted someone who could build a schedule that would position us to compete for conference championships, regional bids. And most importantly we wanted someone who had a plan to insure academic success for our student-athletes.
“When it got to the recruiting part of the discussions, he hit it out of the park,” Johnson said. “He laid out the plan how we can maximize baseball in this area to build a college baseball program that could compete in Division II.”
“I need to figure out exactly where we’re at currently with our athletic aid, what’s available,” Murray said. “The one-year plan is to see how much available money there is right now for this summer and identify who’s available if there is money available.
“The long-term plan is to reach out to the 2013 (high school) graduates, the 2014 graduates, to hit this area as hard as we possibly can.”
Moving to the field, “From a tactical point of view, I think that obviously it starts on the mound,” he said. “We have to have the right staff in place, and from that we go to the defensive side of it. ... Then No. 3 is the execution of an offense.
“Our philosophy is to pressure the opponent’s defense. We want to build an offense that whether the wind is blowing out or the wind is blowing in or whatever type ballpark we’re at, we want to make sure that we’re able to execute and manufacture and score runs. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of that type of system and look forward to continuing it.”
Dr. Steve Erwin, an associate vice president for campus life and auxiliary services, was chairman of the search committee that reviewed the pool of 123 applicants. Also on the committee were Deatrea Rose, Paul Grimes, Emily Moses, Brad Wells, Elizabeth Economon, Lacie Anderson, Steve Beykirch, Todd McKnight, Joe Beitzinger and Joe Dellasega.