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His Toughest Critic : Tod Murphy Takes Each Loss Personally but Has Trouble Taking Compliments at All

February 10, 1986|JIM McCURDIE | Times Staff Writer

Tod Murphy's harshest critic stands 6-feet 9-inches, has piercing, blue eyes, and is generally well respected by most who know him. His name is Tod Murphy.

The man UC Irvine basketball coaches say could serve as the prototype for their program--a guy they consider a good player, good student, hard worker and all-around good human being--says he's less than satisfied with what he's accomplished in his collegiate career. The Anteaters have lost nearly as often as they have won in Murphy's senior season, and Murphy takes each loss personally.

"I'd have a hard time pointing to the things I'm doing well, because I'm so worried about the things I'm not doing well," Murphy said.

"No, I don't think this season has lived up to my expectations, and I blame myself for a lot of that. I don't think I've had the kind of season that a lot of people--myself included--expected."

Wait a minute. Maybe somebody slipped Murphy a counterfeit stat sheet. The one UCI compiles and distributes says he's averaging 20 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, shooting 55.7% from the field, and has enough minutes of playing time (783) to fill the hours of a day. He has been the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.'s second-leading scorer most of the season, trailing only Utah State's Greg Grant. He has started in 80 consecutive games.

And that's not to mention the Irvine record book, which, in Murphy's case, bears mentioning. It's a safe bet that sometime during tonight's game at New Mexico State, Murphy will get the ball near the basket, work his way through the two and three defenders that he has become accustommed to sharing the lane with, and score the points that will make him the leading scorer in UCI basketball history.

Murphy enters tonight's game at the Pan American Center needing eight points to pass Dave Baker as the Anteaters' career scoring leader. The 1,594 points he has scored since coming to UCI are the result of hours of hard labor; of a work ethic Anteaters Coach Bill Mulligan wishes he could find in more players. Mulligan is fond of saying that Murphy hasn't had a bad practice since coming to Irvine.

"Overall, God what a job he's done," Mulligan said, with a twinkle in his eyes. "If everybody had his attitude, we'd be something."

Murphy was a first-team All-Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. selection last season. He averaged 17 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and was voted the team's most valuable player. But the Anteaters finished 13-17, and Murphy was left to hope his senior season would be better.

Before the 1985-86 season began, Murphy surveyed UCI's roster and said he believed the Anteaters had the talent to contend for the PCAA title. But Irvine hasn't won more than two consecutive games this season, and Murphy firmly believes that the team's 12-9 record thus far could be better. And Murphy thinks that the fact that it isn't is a reflection on him.

Things were so much simpler during Murphy's sophomore season, when he had teammates such as Ben McDonald, Bob Thornton and George Turner to attract the opponents' attention. The Anteaters finished 19-10 that season. Mulligan has said that the best team he's had at Irvine. Murphy's role has magnified since those players have departed. He's become the Anteaters' only pure inside player, and draws a crowd nearly every time he posts up. Murphy might have just as well worn a bull's-eye on the back of his jersey this season instead of the No. 43. Many of UCI's opposing coaches have designed game plans that include defending Murphy by joining two or three players to his hip. Siamese zones. Men-to-man defenses.

"I think it's a compliment to me if coaches find it necessary to use two and three guys to try to stop me from scoring," Murphy said. "But it's also disappointing that since I've become the quote 'focal point' of the team, we haven't really strung any wins together. That type of thing always concerns me, because I'm wondering if guys like Bob and Ben and George can lead such a strong team, why can't I? It brings up interesting thoughts in my mind when I go to bed.

"I hate losing. It's plain and simple. I can't stand to lose. And, unfortunately, I've done way too much of it the past two years."

And it's all Tod Murphy's fault, right? Of course not, but the fact that he seems to believe much of it is says a lot about his approach to things. "I'd give back anything I've done this entire season to have a 17-2 year, or a much better year than what we've got right now," he said.

Said UCI assistant coach Mike Bokosky, when told Murphy is somewhat disappointed with himself this season: "He probably sees himself as being up and down, just like you and I see ourselves going up and down more than someone else would. But I can't see Tod fluctuating much, and I've seen him for four years. He's the most consistent person I've ever been around, and I'm not just talking about basketball. That covers everything . . . how he treats people, how he plays, how he is in his total life. He's just very consistent."

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