Murphy back on the basketball court at Kimberly
By Greg Bates
BROWN COUNTY – Last November, when high school basketball coaches statewide were preparing their teams for the upcoming season, Jon Murphy was sitting at home for the first time in 34 years.
It was a lonely, hollow feeling.
“There was a hole in my life, and I’m not ready to give it up yet,” Murphy said.
During his year off from coaching, Murphy found himself having lots of time on his hands.
He thought about picking up a job driving for Amazon.
“If I’m going to work, why don’t I do what I’m good at and I missed,” said Murphy.
When the longtime Seymour boys’ basketball coach retired last July, he was sure he’d return to a gym at some point at another school.
However, it had to be the right fit.
Murphy, who’s fourth on the all-time wins list for high school boys’ basketball coaches in Wisconsin, had an opportunity present itself when Kimberly boys’ basketball coach Lucky Wurtz retired in early April.
“Probably like everyone, when I heard he was retiring, that didn’t surprise me,” Murphy said. “I bounced (the idea) off my wife. I made a phone call, and there was mutual interest and it went from there.”
On May 5, Murphy made it official – he was taking the Kimberly coaching job.
The Papermakers have been an established, solid program for years, finishing last season as the WIAA Division 1 state runners-up.
“It was the right opportunity,” said Murphy. “I talked to their athletic director, and they made me feel welcome and wanted. It was a great situation, and I’m excited to be in the gym again.”
The 58-year-old built a legacy on the hardwood at Seymour.
In 33 seasons, he amassed a record of 615-193.
He nabbed 15 conference titles, 12 trips to state and three state titles.
From the 1996-97 season to 2005-06, Seymour advanced to the Division 2 state title game eight times and won three championships (1996-97, 2000-01 and 2005-06).
Murphy, a Bay Port graduate, stepped into the Seymour program in 1987 and built it into a perennial Division 2 state power.
Murphy said he decided Kimberly was the right fit because he didn’t have to rebuild a program.
The Papermakers will return two starters from last season, including Fox Valley Association Player of the Year and Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association first-team all-state selection Jackson Paveletzke.
Kimberly has won its conference title the last three seasons.
“I didn’t want to get into a complete rebuild,” Murphy said. “So, Kimberly – and I don’t care what the sport is, boys or girls, football, baseball, basketball, track and field, volleyball – they have a strong tradition of excellence across the board.”
Not long after accepting the job, he met with the returning Kimberly players to get acquainted.
“It’s going to be lots of excitement and the nervousness of a new coach because when I met with the kids, they’re coming off a year they went to the state title, and they accomplished some great things,” said Murphy. “I told them I’ve had a past where I’ve been successful, too. For me and them, this is the excitement of a new beginning. It doesn’t matter what I did in my past, the slate’s clean for all of us, and there’s an excitement to that.”
Throughout Murphy’s success on the court at Seymour, he pointed to his players and fellow coaches as the difference makers.
Come November, when he’s is sitting on a new bench on a new home court, he’ll have part of his past next to him.
Troy Cornell was Murphy’s right-hand man as an assistant for 31 seasons.
Cornell wrapped up his last season at Seymour in March after his youngest son, Treyton, graduated.
“That was a huge piece because there’s a familiarity and a confidence in his ability,” Murphy said. “I know what he can bring. That was my first call once I got this job.”
Cornell took two days to decide and came back with a “yes” to Murphy’s offer.
Murphy is currently trying to solidify his coaching staff for next season.
He said he’s hoping to bring back as many Kimberly coaches as possible because they know the program.
Murphy is 32 wins away from moving into third place on the all-time wins list in Wisconsin boys’ basketball history, but he said that milestone isn’t on his mind – he just wants to coach.
How long is Murphy planning on staying at Kimberly?
“I’m going to be there for a few years,” he said. “I’d be surprised if I was there less than five years. My wife’s a couple of years younger than me – she’s in the Green Bay school system. She took some time off when our kids were young, so she’s got four or five years left. When she’s retired, then maybe we can revisit it.”
During his one year off from basketball, Murphy said he missed it.
“I missed the planning, working with kids, being in the gym and the competition,” he said.