Three years into job, Capitals' Murray is having the time of his coaching life

Phil Jackman

January 20, 1993|By Phil Jackman

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Despite their foot-dragging start (4-8) piled atop off-season problems, injuries and uncertainties in the player-personnel department, Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray says the present has been his most enjoyable time behind the bench. And the team's solid play since Christmas (6-2-1) has nothing to do with it, although he's not complaining.

Almost unnoticed, because the Caps were in the midst of a two-week absence from the Capital Centre, Murray noted his third anniversary as Washington's coach last Friday with the admission, "I enjoy the job more now."

Recall, the Capitals had a semi-glamorous 45-27-8 record last season, good for second place overall in the NHL. That wasn't a charge?

"All the way up to the playoffs," he said, remembering his club blew a 3-1 lead to eventual Stanley Cup victor Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. "What gets better about this job as you go along is after awhile you begin trying your philosophies and seeing them work.

"It's also fun seeing young players come along and fit in and developing a good relationship with your players."

The Caps are up in the top third of the standings (eighth with 52 points) after being just 7-12-1 in late November and things are looking awfully good, considering they will have played seven more road games than home ones after tomorrow's visit to Chicago.

Of course, the problem in the Patrick Division is the Penguins got off to that unbelievable start and, even with Mario Lemieux likely out for two months, seem nigh uncatchable as far as regular-season honors are concerned.

After winning just three of their first 10 games at home, the Capitals are unbeaten in their last 10 (8-0-2). During the last six weeks of the season, they'll have a stretch when they play 16 of 21 games at home.

In the three years since taking over for brother Bryan on Jan. 15, 1990, Washington's record under Terry is 123-95-21. Meanwhile, after heading home for a bit, Bryan has hauled the Red Wings back to respectability with a 103-82-23 mark.

* With all the money to be made simply by being a heavyweight boxer with two attached retinas and a license these days, isn't it amazing how a Tony Tubbs can't keep away from drugs long enough to open and pad a bank account? Tubbs couldn't pass a drug test prior to a scheduled fight with Tyrell Biggs the other night, blowing a shot at a $500,000 title shot with a win and clean test.

* So the Dallas Mavericks are 3-30 and look to be a good bet to challenge the worst-ever NBA mark of 9-73 posted by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers. I have direct knowledge that they're not the worst NBA team, however, having witnessed the 1948-49 Providence Steamrollers a few times.

Team star was Ernie Calverley, ex-Rhode Island gunner who shot a snappy 27 percent and averaged fewer than 12 points a game for a 6-42 squad. They didn't keep rebounds in those days, which is good because the Steamers never got any. One thing, they weren't a poor road team, winning as many as travelers, going 3-21 both ways.

Five years ago, the Mavs were 53-29 and lost the Western Conference final to the Lakers in seven games. Only a match would have been quicker.

* Haven't checked it out yet, but they say "Sidelines" is an excellent behind-the-scenes look at all aspects of pro football, including heretofore unpublished stories about the hijinks of some of the wild-men players. It is published by Ben Higgs, who runs a sports marketing company in Westminster.

* One could put more stock in Reggie Jackson's complaint that it's highly unlikely any team in baseball would approach him with a job offer if, since his retirement, he had done even one thing to prepare himself for such work. Instead, it seems, all the Hall of Famer does is show up on shopping network shows pushing signed balls and bats and talking about his job with a baseball-card company.

* Considering all the fine sports-related movies made in the last few years, it's slightly embarrassing that the top money-grossing sports film of all time is "Rocky IV," the idea of Balboa storming the Kremlin being perhaps the weakest of the five-flick saga. "Rocky III" is second and the original "Rocky" third.

* Despite winning just two of their past 24 games, the surging Ottawa Senators picked up a point on the San Jose Sharks, who won only one, in the battle to avoid finishing last among the

NHL's two dozen teams. No wonder the two newest expansion teams in Miami and Anaheim are talking about delaying their entry a year. The Senators are still winless on the road, not even boasting a tie after 22 outings.

* Al Rosen, no longer involved in baseball first-hand after serving as president and general manager of the San Francisco Giants for years, was a vibrant guest on all-sports radio WTEM yesterday, explaining the scary situation management faces these days:

"It's a billion and a half-dollar industry and, this season, player salaries will probably be approaching $850 million. It's tough running a business when 60 percent goes out right off and we're not even talking administration, marketing and maintaining an organization yet. Except for places like Baltimore and Toronto, places that drew so well because of new ballparks, a lot of teams are in financial straits.

"Sooner or later, both sides in this thing, labor and management, have to sit down and come to an agreement that not only benefits them but the game itself and the fans."

* Now that Georgetown, St. John's, Canisius, Iona, St. Peter's and Siena are ready to go with a no-scholarships Division I-AA football league, look for Towson State and a score of other ECAC schools to follow suit as soon as their present scholarship athletes have moved on (1995).

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