Bryan Murray (Coach, 1981-90)
Three knowledgeable sources weigh in on Capitals head coach Bryan Murray:
“Murray has a lot of the old hardboot in him”
-- Toronto Star
“Murray, the notorious bench baiter”
-- Philadelphia Daily News
“Don't make Murray angry. You wouldn't like him when he’s angry.”
-- TV’s Incredible Hulk
Bryan never backed down during his decade in D.C., battling officials, other coaches, opposing players… heck, even one of his own players. Always, it’s fair to point out, amply supported by the courage of his convictions.
¨ Like his verbal sparring with the Islanders’ Duane Sutter - nicknamed "dog" for his continual yapping on the ice.
Between periods one night, as Murray left the bench, Sutter bumped him. Murray grabbed a linesman who’d seen the contact, irate that a penalty wasn’t assessed. Well, a penalty was assessed – against Murray, for touching an official.
¨ Murray spotted another official’s goof in October, 1985, when a New Jersey player was sprung from the penalty box a second early.
For protesting too vehemently, Murray was tossed from the game by referee Andy Van Hellemond. (Somewhere, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver felt his pain.)
¨ The 2-year anniversary of that ejection was commemorated with a more explosive dustup. At a home game against Buffalo, ref Bill McCreary whistled a bench minor when Bryan argued a call.
During intermission, Murray shouted down a hallway at McCreary. Soon, the coach and linesman Ron Asselstine were “exchanging harsh words and shoves.” The other linesman, fortunately skilled in pulling combatants apart, had to step in.
Nothing personal against this crew, you understand. The NHL socked Murray with a $1,000 fine several years earlier "for postgame shouting matches with referees Don Koharski and Ron Wicks." This time, both the coach and the linesman were suspended for three games.
¨ Late in a 1984 playoff game, Murray thought the Flyers were throwing goons on the ice to mix it up (nah, really?).
Philly coach Bob McCammon and Murray “shouted at each other, pointing fingers in obvious fury.” When McCammon yelled about the Caps lacking guts, Murray told him, “We do have a few on the ice, and behind the bench.”
¨ Murray wouldn’t abide a lack of heart, which caused a high-profile divorce with former wunderkind Bobby Carpenter. Oh, at the beginning they had gotten along just swell. Bobby: “Mr. Murray is a real good coach.” Bryan: "I could play him 40 minutes and he wouldn't complain." That was in 1981, when both were NHL rookies.
By early in the ’86-’87 season, "I had 56 meetings with him last year and 15 more this season," said the exasperated coach. The issue: "his (un)willingness to go to the net."
After being suspended and eventually traded, a defiant Carpenter said, “I'm glad I didn't listen to him." A neutral observer, Detroit GM Jim Devellano, knew who had taken the high road. "Carpenter went out of his way to embarrass Bryan Murray."
So despite all the heat-of-battle fireworks, Murray’s legacy remains one to be proud of. As USA Today’s Kevin Allen wrote in a 2007 profile, “He has respect around the league for his dignified approach to coaching.”
(Additional Sources: Wash. Post, LA Times, Phi. Inquirer, Boston Globe, AP)
Changing Of The Guard
By his 9th season as Capitals coach, no one knew quite how tenuous Bryan Murray’s job was – except Bryan Murray.
Sure, it figured the hot seat was warming underneath him. Murray compiled an outstanding .572 winning percentage between 1981-90, plus coach of the year honors in 1984. Yet, nary a trip to the conference finals.
Still, players, media and fans thought Murray had signed a two-year extension – because that’s what General Mgr. David Poile told them. Only he and Murray knew the leash was really much, much shorter.
As reported in the L.A. Times, Murray agreed to the deception, "So players wouldn't be under the impression I was at the whim of them playing well or not playing well."
It didn’t matter. After a midseason 8-game losing streak in 1990, Bryan became ex-coach of the Capitals.
Like the phantom contract, what happed next surprised everyone – except Bryan Murray. Poile replaced him with the team’s AHL coach, younger brother Terry.
"I was tremendously pleased, despite everybody saying everything, that Terry got the job," Bryan told the AP. "Terry and I talked in the years leading up to when it happened, that, as a coach, you don't last forever. And that he would hopefully be the guy given the opportunity.”
Terry Murray (Coach, 1990-94)
Since Terry Murray was 8 years younger, brother Bryan often doubled as mentor.
Bryan was Terry’s high school basketball coach. When defenseman Terry signed with the Capitals in 1981-82, Bryan was his last NHL coach. In 1983, Terry began 5 seasons as Bryan’s assistant behind the D.C. bench.
The relationship changed in January, 1990. According to the L.A. Times, when Terry agreed to replace Bryan as Caps coach, he called his older brother. “‘Bryan, I'm really sorry the way things have turned out for you.’ He said, 'Hey, I had a good run at it and now it's your time.'"
Bryan had sacrificed wins to groom a new crop of young players. That paid off, as Terry guided the Capitals to playoff wins over the Devils and Rangers, and a trip to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
For 3 of his 5 season as Capitals coach, Terry went head to head with Bryan, then coach/GM in Detroit. "I get excited coaching against him," Terry told AP. "We're competitive people, so I'm sure he wants to beat me as much as I want to beat him. I want to prove he taught me a few things."
Bryan later had a deadpan response: "What does he know? He's the younger brother."
Coaching Brothers: Epilogue
Sibling rivalry? Naturally; sibling tension? No way. "We're not going to let anyone drive a wedge between us," Terry Murray once said. "Bryan and I have gone through enough of that bleep in Washington."
More bleep happened in January, 1994, when David Poile fired his second Murray brother.
Amazingly, Terry would follow Bryan as coach of another NHL franchise four years later. But that was OK, because the person hiring him was… Bryan Murray, who was also GM of the Florida Panthers, and wanted to step away from the dual role of coach!
Bryan Murray told the Philadelphia Daily News that Terry worked so hard, "Even I have to make an appointment to see him."