As he enters his 34th season as the head coach of the Brown women's crew in 2017-18, John Murphy is considered the premier coach in the nation. Along with his wife, associate head coach Phoebe Murphy, he has won seven NCAA championships in the 21 seasons since the competition began. After winning the program's first championship in 1999, Murphy and the Bears went on to win again in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011, an astonishing run of seven titles in 13 years. Murphy is also a six-time winner of the EAWRC Coach of the Year award, taking home the honor in 1988, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2008.
In 2015, the Bears came in third at the NCAA Championships for the second straight season. Brown captured the first varsity eight race and the team trophy at the 2015 Ivy Championship for its ninth Ivy title all-time and first since 2008. Murphy won Ivy League Coach of the Year and CRCA Regional Coach of the Year honors. Murphy’s crew competed at both the Henley Women’s Regatta and the Henley Royal Regatta in the summer of 2015. The Bears won their third and fourth straight Ivy team points trophies in 2016 and 2017 while making their 20th and 21st consecutive appearances at the NCAA Championships, standing as one of three programs to compete in every NCAA Championship since its inception.
Brown placed third at the 2014 NCAA Championships on the strength of a silver medal finish in the varsity eight race. The Bears swept Ivy League competition during the regular season to secure the team's first No. 1 national ranking since 2007, a position the crew maintained for five weeks. Brown won the team trophy at the Ivy Championship, accumulating the most overall points and finishing second in the varsity eight race. The successful season earned Murphy his fourth CRCA New England Region Coach of the Year award and an induction into the CRCA Hall of Fame.
In 2011, the Bears showed a true team effort, coming from behind to end in a virtual tie with Stanford in the final event. Thanks to Brown's higher finish in the varsity eight race (less than a second difference) the Bears were awarded their seventh national championship crown while under the tutelage of the Murphy’s.
Murphy was recognized by US Rowing with the Fan's Choice Award for the National Collegiate Coach of the Year 2011, presented at the inaugural Golden Oars Awards Dinner at the New York Athletic Club.
In 2008, the Bears easily won the NCAA team title with an impressive eight-point margin over second place Washington. The second varsity eight led the way for Bruno, winning a gold medal with a time of 6:42, more than two seconds ahead of the next boat. The varsity eight and varsity four each took the bronze, illustrating Brown's depth and team approach. The combination was enough to give the Bears 67 points, well ahead of the rest of the field.
At the 2007 NCAA Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn., all three of Bruno's crews made it into the grand finals and captured their fifth NCAA Championship in 10 years. After the season, Murphy guided the crew to a semifinal appearance at the Henley Royal Regatta in London, England. To top off the successful 2007 season, Murphy also had one student athlete named to the First Team of the District I ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America team.
In 2004, the second varsity eight went undefeated as Brown captured first place in both the varsity and second varsity eight races at the national championships in Gold River, Calif. Brown finished its 2002 season undefeated in the regular season and ended with a record of 10-1, earning its third national title. In 2001, the Bears finished third in the NCAA Championships at Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Ga. The team compiled an 11-1 overall record and captured its fourth straight Eastern Championship on Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J.
In 2000, Murphy was named the Division I Rowing Coach of the Year by the CRCA after his crew captured its second consecutive NCAA Championship with victories in the varsity and second varsity races at Cooper River. In addition to a second consecutive NCAA title, the Bears' won the 2000 Eastern Sprints title and an Ivy League championship. In 1999, Murphy led his crew to the first NCAA Division I Championship in Brown University history after defeating the University of Virginia by a three-second margin at the NCAA Championships at Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. The Bears also captured the Eastern Sprints Championships and the Ivy Championship while setting a new course record.
Murphy coached the 1998 women's crew in the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta in London. In 1997, he guided the crew to a third-place finish at the inaugural NCAA Women's Rowing Championships on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. That year, his varsity four won the first gold medals ever awarded at the NCAA Championship. After finishing the 1996 season undefeated, Coach Murphy's crew became the first women's crew to capture the “Triple Crown” of collegiate racing - the Eastern Sprints, the IRAs, and the National Collegiate Rowing Championship. Murphy coached his crew to back-to-back IRA Championships in 1993 and 1994.
He also tallied an EAWRC team Championship in 1990, capturing the Charles G. Willing trophy after winning gold medals in the first varsity and the second varsity. Coach Murphy was recognized in 1988 being named the EAWRC Coach of the Year after his varsity eight captured the Women's Eastern Sprints Championship for the first time in Brown history. Murphy began his coaching career in 1976 at Cal-Berkeley where he was responsible for the men's novice crew. He continued to coach the men's novice crew in 1977 and 1978.
In 1979-80, Murphy coached the women's novice crew at the University of Washington with the first novice eight going undefeated in the Pac-10 and claiming the West Coast Championship. Murphy returned to Cal-Berkeley as the novice women's coach in 1980, winning the Pac-10 West Coast Championship in 1981. His 1982 and 1983 crews were both silver medal winners, and his 1984 crew were undefeated national champions.
Murphy attended Kent School and Columbia University. At Kent, he captained the National Schoolboy Championship crew and rowed in the Royal Henley Regatta in his junior and senior years. He and his wife, Phoebe, have three children, Jack, Penelope, and the late Patrick D. Murphy, and reside in Barrington, R.I.
Murphy's Career Awards
- NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year: 2000, 2004
- EAWRC Coach of the Year: 1988, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008
- CRCA National Coach of the Year: 2000, 2004, 2008
- CRCA Regional Coach of the Year: 2000, 2002, 2008, 2014, 2015
- Ivy League Coach of the Year: 2015
- Words Unlimited Coach of the Year: 1999
- Words Unlimited Co-Coach of the Year (with wife, Phoebe): 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
- CRCA Hall of Fame: 2014
- US Rowing Ernestine Bayer Award for significant contributions to women's rowing: 2007
- Duffy Dwyer Memorial Award: 2004
- Words Unlimited Team of the Year: 2004
- Outstanding Athletic Achievement in Intercollegiate Athletics Award: 2002, 2004
- US Rowing Golden Oars National Collegiate Coach of the Year: 2011
Murphy’s Career Highlights
- Nine Ivy League Championships: 1988, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2015
- Four Ivy League Team Championships (Ivy Championship Era): 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
- Eight Eastern Varsity Eight Championships: 1988, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008
- Nine Eastern Team Championships: 1990, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2013
- Three IRA Championships: 1993, 1994, 1996
- One Collegiate National Championship: 1996
- Seven NCAA National Championships: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2011
- Two-time NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year (2000, 2004)
Murphy's Record at Brown