Troy Murphy: Tourney experience better than NBA playoffs

IRISH STEW

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

He was a key part of the organization when winning wasn’t such a given and the potential for a deep NBA playoff run was just a dream.

So much has changed for the Golden State Warriors since former Notre Dame All-American Troy Murphy was a rotation regular, and he couldn’t be happier.

“I like the way they play,” Murphy told the Tribune last month during the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament, where he was honored as one of the league’s legends despite spending his collegiate career in the Big East. “I’m excited for them.

“I hope they make a long, long run.”

Just don’t expect Murphy to tune in. Having left Notre Dame a year early in 2001, Murphy currently is finishing work toward his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, where he’s enrolled for his third and final semester.

Golden State’s first-round playoff game Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans tips around 10:30 p.m. eastern time and likely ends sometime around 1 a.m.

“They’re on too late,” said Murphy, who lives full-time in New York City. “I’m in bed at that time. I’m up early to work out and go to school.”

Murphy spent his first five full seasons and part of a sixth with the Warriors, who made him the 14th pick of the first round in the 2001 NBA draft. The power forward appeared in 359 games, scored 4,024 points and grabbed 2,957 rebounds in 10,126 career minutes for the Warriors. Prior to the 2014-15 regular season, Murphy still ranked sixth in franchise history for career defensive rebounds (2,099).

Murphy played for five head coaches during his Golden State days, never won more than 38 games and never appeared in the playoffs. He was traded to Indiana midway through the 2006-07 season – one that saw the Warriors make the playoffs.

This past season, Golden State finished 67-15 and is the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the 2015 NBA playoffs. Led by guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors are serious contenders to win the team’s first championship since 1975.

A sellout streak that is well north of 100 consecutive games has made Oracle Arena one of the loudest, most intimidating buildings in the league. That doesn’t surprise Murphy. Fans in the East Bay have long loved their basketball, win or lose.

“We were winning 35 games a year and selling the place out out there,” Murphy said. “It’s a tough place to play. You just can’t go into Oracle Arena and win in the playoffs.”

Speaking of the playoffs, Murphy held the distinction late in his 12-year NBA career of having appeared in the most regular-season games (666) of any active player without any postseason. He snapped that streak in 2011 when he appeared in one playoff game for the Boston Celtics. He played in four additional playoff games the following year for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Murphy likened his NBA playoff experience to his junior year at Notre Dame, where was part of a veteran team that included Matt Carroll, David Graves, Ryan Humphrey and Martin Ingelsby that helped the Irish get to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years.

“When I was in college, we looked forward to getting to the NCAA tournament, so to get there with that group of guys was special,” said Murphy, who turns 35 next month. “In the NBA, it’s different. You’re on a solo mission a lot of times. If I was on the Warriors and we had gotten to the playoffs together, that would have been a parallel experience.

“The NCAA tournament was a better experience.”