LEWISTON, Maine -- While 34 years separated the Bates College graduations of Jim Murphy '69 and Carla Flaherty '03, they both say they share the same ideas about coaching. That's part of the reason both are enthused about becoming the co-head coaches of the Bates women's soccer team this season.
"Carla and I get along very well, we have the same basic philosophy, and I think it's a benefit to the program as a whole that the two of us will be there," said Murphy. "(Ninth-year assistant coach) Denny Bourgoin will be back, too. I think it will all be beneficial for the players and program."
Murphy, who has led the Bates women's soccer and basketball programs since 1994, once coached Flaherty on the Bobcat basketball team. After she graduated, Flaherty rejoined the basketball team as an assistant coach in 2004, then became assistant women's soccer coach in 2005, the year the Bobcats won the NESCAC championship. In the 2008 season, Flaherty took the reins of the women's soccer team as interim head coach while Murphy took a semester's sabbatical.
Director of Athletics Kevin McHugh announced the new arrangement this week.
"To provide the best possible support for the Bates student-athletes, our goal is to eventually be able to split the two-sport head coaching positions that we currently have," McHugh said. "We are not able to do so at this point, but with Carla Flaherty having served as the head women's soccer coach last fall while Jim Murphy was on sabbatical, moving to co-head coaches with Jim returning is the next practical step toward that goal."
Murphy will remain as the sole head coach of the women's basketball team, with Flaherty assisting him.
Under Flaherty's leadership, the Bobcats women's soccer team improved from 4-10 in 2007 (only Murphy's second sub-.500 season in 14 years) to 6-8 in 2008. Flaherty acknowledges that the season was a significant learning experience for her, one that should translate well for the team's future.
"Coach Murphy has, of course, all the experience, having been here for so long, while as a former female athlete, I'm able to relate to the women in a different capacity. I think it's a perfect fit," she said. "Both of us are looking to turn around the program. We both agree that you're only as good as your record says you are, and the last two years were not great. I think we're both looking forward to collaborating, putting both of our ideas together for these girls. The great thing about being co-head coaches is we can attack the same issues from two different angles -- get the same message across in two different ways."
Murphy watched the team's home games as a spectator last season. And while a second straight sub-.500 season doesn't sit well with either coach, Murphy believes the team has enough talent to turn things around, if they follow the coaching philosophy of their now two head coaches.
"I tell the players all the time: we're not going to out-talent anybody, so we have to outwork them, and Carla and I both agree on that," said Murphy. "The teams we play are just too good to be able to compete against them with a half-hearted effort. You have to win the 50/50 balls, always be the aggressor, and play skillfully, intelligently and unselfishly. If we do those things, we'll be in good shape."