Clover grad enjoys return to bench

Thursday, March 16, 2017

As Brian McCammon sits in Bankers Life Fieldhouse tonight to watch the NCAA tournament first-round basketball games, he will be able to see a familiar face out on the court in Northern Kentucky’s Cole Murray.

Murray is a senior at NKU and graduated in 2013 from Delphi, where McCammon recently completed the second year of his second stint as head coach of the Delphi Oracles.

Brian McCammon

Murray played for the Oracles a few years before McCammon reassumed the program in the summer of 2015, but was an eager participant in youth camps when the 1992 Cloverdale graduate was the head coach from 2002-05.

“I had coached Cole when he was really young in our youth program,” McCammon said. “Cole had also gone through our younger aged travel teams, so I feel a tiny bit of ownership for his success.

“His brother [Cade] is our best player and was our leading scorer this year [11.3 points per game],” he added. “It’s great to sees Cole do so well. We are good family friends with his parents, and we are proud of what he has accomplished.”

Cole Murray had chances to go to other colleges and maybe not play as much as he has at NKU, but chose to go to the Highland Heights school just a few miles southeast of Cincinnati – which was still in Division II at the time.

Cole Murray of Delphi has helped the Norsemen to reach the NCAA tournament.
Northern Kentucky photo

“He took a chance, and he wanted to be a part of building that program,” McCammon said. “He knew this would be his only chance to play in the Big Dance since this is their first year in Division I. Things kind of broke perfectly for them in the conference tournament.

“To be able to play against Kentucky in Indianapolis makes it even better for him and his family,” he added. “It will be great to see him play, and to spend time around his parents and see them enjoy this has been really neat.”

For a Class 2A school like Delphi to produce a Division I basketball player is not a common occurrence, and McCammon hopes the younger players throughout his program can use Murray’s successes as motivation.

McCammon was head coach at North Central in Farmersburg for the 1999-2000 season, then went to Delphi three years later. He coached the Oracles to a 14-7 record in his first season, to a 17-8 record and a sectional championship in his second year and to a 10-13 record in his third year before stepping down to take a job in pharmaceutical sales.

McCammon now works in business development for Purdue Health Care Advisors, which does health care consulting for hospitals and doctors across the Midwest.

“They have had some turnover in coaching here at Delphi, and when the last coach left two years ago the athletic director came to me and presented an offer for me to come back,” he said. “After some soul searching and deep discussions with my wife, I decided to do it.”

McCammon, who has a fifth-grade son and a second-grade daughter, recognized that the school’s feeder system had been “ignored” for several years and he has worked hard to restore that vital element.

“I had coached my son [Bryce] and his buddies since they were in kindergarten, so we’re in kind of an interesting experiment to see if I can coach one group of kids all the way through their school years,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of advanced things with his group that you normally wouldn’t do until junior high or high school, so I’m interested to see how that is going to work out.”

Delphi went 4-19 last winter in his first year back at the helm, but finished with a 12-13 record this season and was runnerup in the sectional to four-time defending champion Marquette Catholic.

“They had graduated eight seniors from the team two years ago, so we struggled,” he admitted. “We had a nice turnaround this year and showed a lot of improvement. I feel the program is headed in the right direction.”

Delphi graduates five seniors from this year’s team, three of which played a lot, but the top three scorers all return for next year.

“We are cautiously optimistic for next year,” he said.

McCammon is thankful to his bosses for allowing him to work reduced hours during basketball season, and work mostly from home.

“They give me a lot of flexibility, and I live about a minute from the school,” he said. “I’m done about 2 or 2:30 every day, and that allows me to do the basketball part. I have some great assistant coaches and they are very helpful.

“It’s a great place to coach.”

McCammon has kept track of the basketball happenings at his alma mater, particularly this season.

“I had the chance to watch Cooper Neese play a few times in high school and he’s a phenomenal player. It’s been fun to follow them this season.”

McCammon still has many roots in the Cloverdale community, as principal Sonny Stoltz was his cross country coach and athletic director J.J. Wade was a high school classmate.

He recalls that Jerry Neese and the late Chad Tucker were two of his favorite players growing up.

“It makes me feel kind of old to see Jerry’s kid getting ready to go off to college,” McCammon said. “Cloverdale basketball is a big part of my upbringing. It comes full circle.”

McCammon’s decision to become a coach was based upon his great relationship and experiences with his own coach, Al Tucker – who will be inducted next week into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

“Al Tucker was a bigger than life figure to me, and he was a bigger role model to me than Bobby Knight or Gene Keady at that time. The time he spent talking to me and my dad about everything left a big impression on how you treat people.

“Our families were great friends.”

McCammon, 43, said that Tucker’s induction on Wednesday is “much deserved” and long overdue.

“I got to spend a lot of time with Chad when I got older,” he said. “I miss him every day.

“The things that Al was able to do at a small school, to compete with the Terre Haute Souths and win that regional were unbelievable,” McCammon added. “I was only in third grade, but I still remember like it was just yesterday how well prepared his teams were and the great community support they got. I remember the caravans to the semistate, and that’s where I cut my teeth on Indiana high school basketball.”

Delphi, a community of about 3,000 people located a few miles northeast of Lafayette, has recently become a major figure in news reports both statewide and nationally after the tragic murders of two teenage girls last month.

“It has made us look at our community in a different way,” McCammon said of the still unsolved crimes. “It has kind of tested our faith, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of being here for anything right now. We had two weeks left in the regular season when that happened, and we had to process it and work through it.”

McCammon said that none of his players is closely related to the girls, and the difference in age lessened their relationships, but in a town of Delphi’s size the impact is still huge on everyone. He was impressed with the compassion shown by the team’s opponents for the remainder of the season.

“Every team we played after that did something special to honor the girls or show their respect,” McCammon said. “Some of them wore purple and green socks to honor the girls, and one school’s students raised $3,000 and donated it to the reward fund. It changed the atmosphere in the community, and we were able to ride that at the end of the year.”

Delphi upset a Hebron team in the sectional that had won 16 games in the regular season – “a game we probably shouldn’t have won,” he admits.

“We refer to it as our ‘new normal’ with FBI agents still around all the time,” he said. “A lot of people are still very scared. You never think it’s going to happen in your community, but when it does you have to figure out a way to deal with it.”

McCammon has been in talks with Cloverdale for possibly bringing his team to Putnam County for a game next year.

“That would be something really neat for my family and me,” he said. “I hope we can find a date that works for both of us.”

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