Published on January 7th, 2016 | by Staples Soccer0
UPDATE: Tributes Pour In For Dennis Murphy ’73
The death of Dennis Murphy ’73 has brought a flood of tributes to StaplesSoccer.com. Teammates, players he coached and Wrecker fans sent in their memories of the Staples, Southern Connecticut State University and Bridge Grille U-23 star and coach. To add your own, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis’ heart and smarts far exceeded his physical stature. The impact he had on so many did too. — Jim Bacharach ’72
Dennis was a really nice guy — a terrific soccer player who often went unnoticed, mostly by those who didn’t have the opportunity to play with him. For those of us who had that privilege, we knew he possessed an uncanny and intuitive sense for the game, a feel for where his teammates (and the goal) were, and very little need for recognition. Every team on which he played was better because of him. I will remember him as a great teammate, a very genuine and fun guy — and sporting a pretty terrible mustache. I also think about the Murphy family, to whom my thoughts go out. All of them were so much a major part of this amazing brotherhood, which shaped so many of us. — George Barrett ’73
My best Murphy story involves the 4 brothers, and their father. We were playing a state cup playoff game against Wilton the summer before senior year; Jim Kuhlmann was the coach. Kevin, Kenny and Ed were all on the field; Dennis and their father were watching on the sidelines. Early in the match I got into a tussle with a Wilton forward after he kicked and punched me because I stripped him of the ball. I threw him to the ground, sat on him and punched away. We were separated and not ejected (for some reason), and play resumed. Soon we tangled again; the same scenario played out. The Wilton fathers were enraged at my blatant aggression and screamed at me, the refs, everyone. The Murphys, to my everlasting gratitude, backed me up to the point where Mr. Murphy tore off his neck brace and offered to take on the entire group of Wilton dads. Though the 4 brothers urged their father to calm down, it was clear they all had my back. Dennis was the lead protector. I knew the entire Murphy clan supported me 100%. From that day forward, I felt I had been accepted into the Murphy fraternity. — Dave Wilson ’75
I’ll always be grateful to Dennis for inviting this Greenwich lad to join the famed Bridge Grille FC team — the best team I ever played on, by a long shot. Beneath that tough exterior, he had a heart of gold — and a mischievous smile. — Grayle Howlett, Greenwich High School ’77
My lasting memory of Dennis was his overwhelming and influential level of confidence, every time Bridge Grille took the pitch. It did not matter who was on the field. We were going to win. — Rich Farquhar ’78
A man who lived his passion, and gave it to all of us. I am thankful to have had incredible coaches in my life. Dennis Murphy is a man I still continue to draw from today, and will for years to come (God willing!). — Mike Noonan ’79
Dennis was a terrific coach, only a few years older than us but legendary already. He was demanding to a fault, and pushed us hard to realize our potential. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was his relentless goalie drills that broke my sternum in 2 places junior year, thereby mercifully ending my sorry 2nd-string high school soccer days. I picked up the game again in college intramurals, and did not stop playing again until just a few years ago — all the while remembering and utilizing his advice and training. I am sure my admiration is replicated a thousand times over from fellow players. — Rick Davis ’81
One of the great influences of my young life. I learned so much from him on how to play the game the right way, and how to compete, hard. I will never forget the pre-game motivational speech Dennis and Tim Hunter ’71 gave us prior to our regional semifinal match against an older and more talented BW Gottschee team (stocked full of Columbia University players, including U-20 national team keeper Steve Pfeil). The content of the speech is not suitable for young readers, but let’s just say he challenged us using vivid descriptions of the male anatomy. Most importantly, he made our little underdog “town of Westport” 100% high school team believe we could actually beat this regional “super club.” We jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and held on for a 2-1 win. In all my years of playing, that was the biggest upset I have been involved in. It was 100% because Dennis and Tim made us believe we could achieve the impossible. And let’s never forget his magic left foot, and the crossbar contests we had from the 18. Not surprisingly, Dennis never lost. — Mark Noonan ’83
A soccer hero. — Todd Coleman ’84
Dennis Murphy was one of the most demanding coaches I ever had. While he was not a poster boy for coaches, to impressionable teenagers he was one who taught us the meaning of competition and dedication. His first lesson to us was: We will never lose because we weren’t fit enough to run the entire game. His second was: Size doesn’t matter; skill does. We were small, but we ran and played circles around our opponents. Third: We are a team. If one person cuts a corner when doing a buildup or drops their legs during leg lifts or whatever, we all pay for it as a team. But when one player did something extraordinary, we all did it as a team. We won as a team. Dennis embedded in us a fierce desire to win for our team, ourselves and our town. Lastly, Dennis taught me personally what a “dingleberry” was. I use it to this very day. Rest in peace, Dennis Murphy. — Tom Wilder ’86
“Everyone in the corner!” Dennis would say. There was no worse — and no better — way to start a practice than by doing the famous buildup. He was a very inspirational coach. — Jono Sollinger ’86
Dennis was “old school” – before the phrase existed. He was my “official coach” for 1 season – at Coleytown Junior High. It was the year before they disbanded Westport junior high sports teams, and the only year they permitted 7th graders to try-out for teams. I was an excited, nervous and eager 7th grader. Thrilled to play on a real team with my older brother for the 1st time. Close to 40 7th graders tried out. Our 1st session began with a build-up. I comfortably stayed near the front of the pack, with 2 people running a few strides ahead of me. “I’m doing well” I thought to myself, eager to make that great 1st impression on Dennis. From across the field, I heard Dennis scream “Jem Sollinger — get over here right now!” I sprinted over, unsure what to expect. “Are you the 3rd fastest 7th grader out here?” he asked. Before I could respond, he said,”Get to the front of the group. And stay there!”
Spending time with Dennis at Tactix was a soccer kid’s dream. He once gave me a bunch of posters he no longer wanted to hang in the store. I asked him if he ever kept any of the posters to hang in his house. His response: “Jemmer, there is only one athlete whose picture I would hang in my room or home. Larry Bird.” He was a lot like Larry Bird. Tough, no-nonsense, a team player, no pretense…all about work ethic.
One summer in the mid-’80’s a talented Westport McGuire Cup team (coached by Rich Hiltz and Tom Bolster) made a good run in the state tournament. A semifinal match against a stacked Ridgefield side turned into a 6-3 (strange score) victory for the Tigers. I watched the match with Dennis. At one point in the 2nd half, a Westport player megged an opponent. The game was already out of reach for us. I tried to make “a big deal” out of the meg. Dennis’ response: “Jem, how many goals is a nutmeg worth?” His message was always precise and to the point. Flash and flair carried little weight without the appropriate substance.
I can still hear the words “That’s not good enough, boys!” when I go for a casual run. I then try to pick up the pace. Dennis was a very important part of my and my brother Jono’s upbringing in Westport — and that extended far beyond soccer. How fortunate all of us in the Staples community were to have him in our lives. — Jem Sollinger ’88