By George Ferguson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
After Saturday night's loss to Browning at the Central A girls divisional tournament, Havre High head coach Dennis Murphy addressed his team and the media, like he has done a thousand times before.
But this time he did it for the last time as head coach of the Havre Blue Ponies.
After 14 seasons in Havre, and 23 years as either a boys or girls head basketball coach in Montana, Murphy is stepping down as the Pony girls' head coach. He will continue as activities director at Havre High School.
Murphy's reason for stepping down is simple. After 23 years of coaching and trying to balance a hectic work schedule with a growing family, it is time for a rest, he said.
Murphy is not leaving the coaching ranks forever.
"I am resigning as the head girls basketball coach at Havre High School," Murphy said. "I am not getting out of coaching for good.
"But this is something that I have been thinking about doing for quite some time," Murphy added. "This has been on my mind for a couple of years and I have had some friends who are getting out of coaching. There were a lot of factors that came into this decision, but it comes down to the fact that I need a rest right now."
Murphy has been a staple on the bench at Havre High since the 1990-1991 season. He has also coached on the Hi-Line at Malta and KG.
During his time in Havre, Murphy has guided the Havre High girls to a state championship in 1997, and he was also an assistant coach on the HHS boys state championship team in 1994. He has two second-places finishes at the state tournament, in 1991 and 1995, and a third-place finish in 1993. His teams have also won several Central A divisional championships.
Murphy has also headed numerous committees for the Montana High School Association while coaching and serving as the Havre High activities director.
"Coaching has been such a big part of my life for a long time," Murphy said. "But my life has changed a lot in 23 years. I have a family who needs time from me and, again, it is just a good time to take a break from it all."
While Murphy makes perfectly clear that he is not retired as a head basketball coach, at least for now, he will be behind a desk and off the basketball court.
Murphy said it's important that people know his decision was based solely on needing time off the court - not from anything that transpired on it, this season or in the past.
"I came up with the idea about midseason and we were playing good basketball at the time," he said. "How we were playing this season or how we did this weekend, or the Browning game, none of that was a factor at all in this decision. I think that we had a great season, and working with these girls was very enjoyable this year. I just decided that at the end of this season it would be a good time to take a break."
Overall, the Ponies finished with a 14-8 record in 2004 and a fourth-place finish in both the regular season and at the Central A divisional tournament. Given the Ponies' lack of size and experience when the season began, as well as playing a rigorous schedule and participating in a loaded Central A tourney, 2004 was perhaps one of Murphy's best coaching jobs at Havre High.
Murphy credited the people who have helped him and have been a part of his career.
"There are a lot of people that are very important to me over the years," Murphy said. "But one man who I really have to thank is Charlie Klimas. He took the chance on bringing me to Havre and giving me the opportunity to coach at a great program like Havre.
"I have had a lot of support over the years and I appreciate all the support from my family and everyone that has been with me over the years."
As athletic director, Murphy will now participate in the search for his successor.
"I definitely don't want this to drag out too long because it will be better for the program to get someone in here and get familiar with things," he said. "But it isn't something that is going to happen tomorrow either. It will take some time to find the person who is best qualified for the position."