Northern Arizona will have a new head coach for the 2019-2020 season.
The dust had seemingly settled on offseason coaching changes, but the Lumberjacks’ position suddenly found itself in transition as Jack Murphy resigned on Sunday to become the associate head coach at Arizona. Murphy, who went 78-149 over seven seasons at NAU, is an Arizona graduate and former Wildcat staffer.
In response, the school quickly announced that assistant Shane Burcar had been elevated to interim head coach.
“We are fortunate to have a coach with Shane’s basketball acumen to lead our program as Interim Head Coach,” [NAU Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike] Marlow said [in a release]. ”Assistant Coaches Jason Sanchez and Gaellan Bewernick along with the returning talent and leadership on our squad, provide many of the necessary ingredients for Coach Burcar to lead a seamless transition. While NAU will conduct a national search for our next head coach, I won’t be surprised if Shane emerges as a very strong candidate. As has been our practice, we will put all of our efforts into the success of this season and conduct a thorough review of the program at the conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign.”
Burcar joined the staff before last season after 12 years leading Mesa High School and, at the time, his recruiting connections in the Phoenix area were touted as a big addition. The position was Burcar’s first in Division I, meaning that in just over a year he’s made the seemingly improbable jump from high school head coach to the Division I big chair.
The Lumberjacks went 10-21 last season, finishing 8-12 in a jumbled Big Sky. Their best season under Murphy came in 2014-15, when they won 23 games and advanced to the CIT championship game before falling to Evansville.
NAU was poised to return its top six scorers, including rising junior forward Jonathan Andre (13.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG). That may still be the case, especially with an internal replacement, but could certainly be in flux.
The Tucson pull was apparently too much for Murphy, who served in a multitude of capacities for Lute Olsen after joining the program as a student manager in 1998. He replaces Mark Phelps, who has been on paid leave since February, reportedly in connection with an accusation of an NCAA violation relating to Shareef O’Neal’s transcript.
Murphy is not the only mid-major head coach to move to an assistant position elsewhere, as former North Dakota coach Brian Jones left for a spot on Dan Muller’s staff at Illinois State earlier this offseason.