The Harvard men’s soccer team figured that lesson out this summer when it replaced assistant coach Paul Mariner with former college star Bruce Murray. Mariner left this past off-season after taking a job with the MLS’ New England Revoltion.
Murray came to coach the Crimson partly because of a close personal relationship with head coach John Kerr that has developed between the two since they were six years old.
“I grew up with him in the D.C.” Kerr said. “I played with him from youth leagues at the age of 12 to the college level...So I know he is an amazing person. The timing seemed to be right and Murray wanted to be reunited with me.”
The offensive-minded Murray rounds out a coaching staff that includes Kerr and head assistant and defensive specialist Gary Crompton. This duo played a key role in Murray’s choice to come to Harvard.
“This is my first college job and coaching for John Kerr was the only job I would’ve taken other than possibly returning to Clemson,” Murray said.
With the addition of Murray to the coaching squad, Harvard now boasts a teaching staff that has three national championships and two Herrmann Trophy—soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman trophy—winners between them. With the team looking to end a two-year-long NCAA tournament drought, the experienced winners on the sideline could be the right compliment to the on-field talent.
“You need to be surrounded by people who know how to win and have done so consistently throughout their careers,” said junior captain and defender Will Craig. “All three of our coaches have had such careers and they know how to prepare us mentally and physically for the games.”
Murray’s playing résumé stretches from the collegiate level with the Tigers to international competition, making him one of the most accomplished assistant coaches in the country. In Cambridge, he will be coaching alongside of one of the most accomplished players-turned-coach in Kerr, who won the Hermann Trophy in his time at ACC-rival Duke.
In 1984, Murray burst onto the national soccer scene by earning Rookie of the Year honors with a Clemson team that won the national championship.
Murray’s career with the Tigers was bookended with another NCAA title his senior year. That season, he was awarded a number of honors for his play on the field—including the Herrmann Trophy, the ISAA National Player-of-the-year award and All-American status.
During his time at Clemson, Murray also played for the U.S. National team, before leaving in 1993. While on that squad, he became the team’s leader in appearances (93) and goals (21).
“I’m the kind of guy that is team, team, team,” Murray said. “I had a good career because I decided it has to be all about the team.”
Murray began bringing this positive attitude to the sidelines a couple of years ago when he moved into coaching. Murray made the shift from the field to training and coaching in 2002 when he joined the Santos teams of the Roswell Soccer Club in Georgia. As the Director of Coaching, Murray organized teams and helped start a new Player Development program in the club.
But completing a successful transition to coaching involved more than simply moving to the sidelines. Murray noticed a difference in applying his team-oriented approach from the bench.
“There’s more psychology involved when coaching,” Murray said. “I consider my job to create an environment in which the players feel comfortable. Then they can go out and embrace that environment.”