Bill Murphy thinks his induction into the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame this year is less about what he did as an athlete than it is about a lifetime of helping give athletes an opportunity to shine. “From an athletic standpoint, I’m probably not up to par of most of the people in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I know the main reason I’m there is obviously my involvement in the community for the last 30 years running youth programs. And that’s fine. I appreciate being recognized for that.”
Murphy’s father, Henry , better known as “Bud,” and older brother, Tim, are already members of the Hall of Fame. “To follow in my father and older brother’s footsteps, to me that’s kind of cool,” Murphy said. “My father was older when he had me, and had health issues, so he couldn’t really play sports with me the way he wanted to. So my older brother Tim really stepped in and was kind of my mentor.”
Murphy, sometimes known as “Murph,” is 18 years younger than his oldest brother, and was coached by him in Little League baseball and Junior League basketball. “It was unbearable,” Murphy said, laughing. “But he made me a better player. I had a great four years playing for him. It was a lot of fun.”
From an early age, Murphy took advantage of where his family lived. “Growing up across the street from Cantine Field had a big influence,” he said. “That was my front and back yard.”
Though he played baseball, basketball was Murphy’s favorite sport. And he didn’t even have to head to the courts at Cantine to play. “Our driveway never suited a basketball hoop, but our next-door-neighbor, Fritz Becker, had a great basketball hoop in his driveway,” Murphy said. “I’d shovel off his driveway just to shoot baskets. It’s something you can do on your own.”
Murphy attended Cahill Elementary School, and is a Saugerties High School Class of 1983 alum. During that time, an injury helped Murphy focus his attention away from the baseball diamond. “I got my leg broken as a 14-year-old in Babe Ruth on a play, and from that point on I kind of lost interest in baseball,” he said. “I spent the whole summer in a cast as a 14-year-old, and it kind of sucked.”
By high school, Murphy was playing three sports. He was a member of the varsity golf team for all four years of high school. He was a middle-distance runner on the varsity track and field team during his junior and senior years. And despite trying out every year, it took a long time for Murphy to make the varsity basketball team.
“Like Michael Jordan, I didn’t make the team in seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth,” he said. “I didn’t make the school team until my junior year.”
Murphy’s Hall of Fame questionnaire lists his basketball stats as “not very impressive.” He spent his time backing up Steve Freers. “My best friend,” Murphy said, again laughing. “He would not have 1437 points if it wasn’t for me pushing his butt all the time. And he knows that.”
Murphy went on to play intramural basketball at the College of Saint Rose in Albany. He’s since stayed active playing Saugerties Athletic Association softball and volleyball.
“I just enjoy the camaraderie,” he said. “When I was younger I played to win, but for the past 15 years I play with a lot of the same guys I grew up with. It’s having that night out each week, still playing quality softball but having fun and not taking it too seriously. I’m a terrible fielder, so that’s why I’ve always been a pitcher.”
Murphy’s greatest influence in athletics is how he’s helped others succeed. He’s been the director of SAA biddy basketball since 1990. He took on the same role with SAA junior league basketball in 2005.
“When I took over the program in the late Eighties, early Nineties, there was probably 150 kids total,” Murphy recalled. “This year I hit my all-time high with 305 kids and 31 teams. Over 100 girls. My biggest pet peeve is when I hear people say, ‘There’s nothing for kids to do in this town.’ Really? Take a look at what we have. Hockey rinks, tennis courts, 15 ball fields, basketball, AAU, lacrosse. It’s crazy what kids have in this town. And that’s a credit to this community. From a sports perspective, we have one of the best communities around, without question.”
Murphy has also coached AYSO soccer, Little League softball and youth basketball, and has been a CYO and AAU basketball coach since 2011. Murphy and his wife Dana’s oldest daughter, Jaclyn, is a freshman at Saugerties High School, and was a member of the varsity girls’ basketball team that won the program’s first ever Section IX title earlier this year.
“I coached her for six years in biddy league,” he said proudly. “That was pure joy. I’m still doing it.”
Murphy’s other daughter, Jillian, a seventh grader, plays soccer and softball. As with so many kids who’ve grown up playing sports in Saugerties, Murphy is pleased his own children are getting the best out of the games they play.
“Winning is great, but it’s learning the game, learning sportsmanship,” he said. “I’m as proud of my daughter when she knocks someone down on the basketball court and helps them get up as I am when she hits a three-pointer. It’s seeing kids become the complete package. Not just becoming a great basketball player, but a great kid. That’s where I get the reward from, seeing these kids go to college. I have kids who I coached 25 years ago who still stay in touch with me. I coach some of them now. Some of my kids I coached have kids in the league now. It makes me feel old, but it’s very, very cool.”
Murphy, who just started his seventh year as the mayor of the Village of Saugerties, has spent the past two decades as a contract administrator with IBM. He and his wife were married 17 years ago at St. Mary of the Snow, and the family considers sports a way of connecting.
But, Bill Murphy joked, there are limits. “When (Dana) and I first started dating in 1994, she used to come to me every night to my basketball leagues and help me keep score,” Murphy said. “She developed a likeness for basketball, but all of a sudden, since my daughter Jaclyn started playing, all of a sudden my wife has a passion for it. We go to these tournaments, during the spring I coach her in AAU, and we just won a tournament in Saratoga. I won’t sit with my wife at my daughter’s basketball games because she’s louder than I am.”
The 2016 Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet will be held on Saturday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Diamond Mills, with a cocktail and welcoming hours beginning an hour earlier. Tickets are $25 and are available through Mark Becker at 518-641-9520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.