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Detroit Pistons rookie Killian Hayes speaks to the media on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
Detroit Pistons, Detroit Free Press
Rob Murphy knows the coaching side of basketball, and then some. He was the second-winningest head coach of Eastern Michigan’s men’s basketball team, leading the Eagles to three postseason berths and a conference title in 2012. At the high school level, he led Detroit Crockett to a state championship in 2001.
Murphy also knows the administrative side of basketball. College coaches are often tasked with fundraising and working with donors and sponsors, particularly at mid-major schools. During his 10 seasons at EMU, and previously as an assistant at Syracuse and Kent State, Murphy became well-versed on handling the business aspects.
He checks virtually every box as the new president and general manager of the Motor City Cruise, the Detroit Pistons’ incoming G League team that will play its inaugural season this fall. The Pistons announced the hire on Wednesday, and Murphy, a Detroit native, is eager to make the leap to the NBA after more than two decades as a high school and college coach.
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“I’m obviously excited to become the president and general manager of the Motor City Cruise,” Murphy said. “Equally excited that the opportunity comes in my hometown in Detroit. Obviously growing up here during the ‘Bad Boys’ era and understanding the rich tradition and history that the Pistons organization has means a lot to me. Very thankful and appreciative of Arn Tellem and Troy Weaver for their belief in me to help lay a solid foundation for the Motor City Cruise. I’m just looking forward to getting started.”
Murphy has longstanding ties to Weaver, whom he considers both a friend and mentor. Their relationship dates back 20 years, Murphy said, and precedes when he replaced Weaver, who left for a soucting job with the Utah Jazz, as an assistant coach at Syracuse in 2004.
Even at Eastern Michigan, Murphy would sometimes call Weaver for advice. When the Pistons hired Weaver to lead their rebuild last summer, Murphy began to consider if the time was right to make the jump to the NBA. But after a decade at Eastern Michigan, leaving was a difficult decision, he said.
“It was really tough just to go through the transition of leaving there,” Murphy said. “But you’re always looking ahead, you’re always looking forward, you’re always looking for a great opportunity. As talks became a little more beefed up here in the last few weeks, talking to Arn and talking to Troy and understanding that there may be an opportunity. I dove into it. I’m very fortunate and happy it worked out. Forever thankful for the 10 years I spent at Eastern Michigan as well.”
Murphy is deeply familiar with how Weaver operates and has kept tabs on his first season. While the Pistons are only 10-29 overall, there have been plenty of positive signs this season — from the ongoing development of their young players to their ability to remain competitive in most games this season despite initially going against one of the NBA’s toughest schedules.
The Pistons have high expectations for the Cruise, which they believe will further enrich their player development program and strengthen their ties to the community.
The Cruise will play in a new building being constructed on Wayne State’s campus on the corner of Warren and Trumbull in Midtown. It’ll enable the Pistons to quickly shuttle their young players to and from the nearby Pistons Performance Center in the middle of the season and host various community and athletic events in conjunction with the university.
Murphy will be tasked with not only putting together a competitive Cruise roster, but helping young players, such as two-way guards Saben Lee and Frank Jackson, develop and get more reps when they’re away from their parent squad.
“Obviously the community is important and getting the Motor City Cruise’s brand out there for people to know what we’re doing,” Murphy said. “We want to put a good product on the floor and get people in the building to see a great product. But at the same time, in these infant stages I want to jump in and learn and get some direction and then lead the way from there.”