Pat Murphy didn’t know if he would ever get the chance to manage again.
He certainly never thought it would happen in Milwaukee.
Yet here he was putting on a Brewers jersey Thursday during the introductory news conference for his first managerial opportunity since 2015. The media session came one day after the Brewers announced they had signed Murphy to a three-year contract and had made former second baseman Rickie Weeks their associate manager.
“You realize how lucky you are to be part of something,” Murphy said. “What we have growing here was unbelievable. I never thought it would be here. These things happen, and all of a sudden I’m here.”
Murphy, who turns 65 on Nov. 28, has three decades of experience running teams at the college and minor-league level. His only previous stint managing in the majors came in 2015, when he went 42-54 as the San Diego Padres’ interim manager after the firing of Bud Black.
When the Padres hired Andy Green as their full-time manager after the 2015 season, Murphy joined Milwaukee’s staff as a bench coach. With Craig Counsell entrenched in Milwaukee as the National League’s longest-tenured manager, Murphy wasn’t expecting that job to open up anytime soon.
“Do the math,” Murphy said. “You’re thinking it’s probably not going to happen here.”
Things changed in a hurry over the last week or so. Counsell left his hometown team to become the Chicago Cubs’ manager for a five-year deal worth over $40 million. The Brewers selected Murphy to take over.
The chain of events adds a wrinkle to the long working relationship between these two men.
Murphy coached Notre Dame when Counsell was an infielder for the Fighting Irish from 1989-1992. Murphy then spent the last eight seasons working for Counsell as his bench coach.
Now they will be competing with each other as NL Central rivals.
“I’ve had a 37-year relationship with Craig, and it takes on many different dimensions,” Murphy said. “It’s now going to take on a different form of competing against.”
Regarding his managerial strategy, Murphy made one bold prediction. “I bet I don’t bunt one time this year,” he said.
The audacity of the Murphy-Weeks pairing was evident Thursday when Weeks finished up his opening statement by saying, “Let’s go,” while including an expletive between those two words.
While searching for Counsell’s replacement, Brewers president of baseball operations Matt Arnold said he emphasized the importance of maintaining the continuity and culture that has helped the team earn five playoff appearances over the last six years while playing in Major League Baseball’s smallest market.
Arnold called Murphy a “glue” to that culture.
“He just connects with everybody,” Arnold said. “He connects in every way, with our young players, our veterans. He challenges guys in great ways, and he makes us all better.”
Murphy believes that culture can help the Brewers continue to win even as they enter a transition period with Counsell heading to Chicago.
“You don’t necessarily win championships with resources,” Murphy said. “You win championships with people. We want to get the players to play at the high end of their value. That creates a culture of responsibility., That creates a culture of ‘Hey, the expectation is to win’. That’s what we’ve tried to do, and I think that’s what we’ve had here, regardless of the roster turning over and regardless of moves or whatever.”
Murphy has instilled that culture in part by using his sense of humor and capitalizing on his knack for needling people around the clubhouse. Murphy, who missed much of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to recover from a heart attack, also knows when it’s time to get serious.
“I believe in love and discipline — in that order,” Murphy said. “Love. Discipline. Sometimes it gets close, and not everybody understands it. I know my kids don’t always understand it. But love and discipline is what this is about, and with that, I think you can accomplish some things and it still can be fun.”
Weeks’ tenure as a Brewers player didn’t intersect with Murphy’s stint as bench coach. But he knows Murphy well after spending the last two years with the Brewers organization as an assistant to player development.
“Being around him, what you see is what you get, and that’s what I like,” said Weeks, who played for the Brewers in 2003 and 2005-2014. “A lot of times you go through life or sport trying to figure out what someone is like. But when you talk to him one time, you’re like, ‘OK, he means what he means,’ but he also has the love and discipline like he says.”
Murphy’s experience includes a combined 947-400-2 coaching record at Notre Dame (1988-94) and Arizona State (1995-2009). After leaving Arizona State in the fall of 2009 amid an NCAA investigation into a variety of alleged violations, Murphy managed at the Single-A and Triple-A levels in the Padres organization from 2011-2015 and posted a combined record of 273-230.
Murphy says his last eight seasons working as a major league bench coach gave him a new perspective that should help him in this long-awaited opportunity.
“It really is an honor,” Murphy said. “I understand how coveted these jobs are. I’ve had my eyes wide open for the last eight years here. It’s a great challenge.”
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