Murry Bartow has had coaching in his blood since childhood.
The newly appointed interim coach of USF men’s basketball has yearned to follow in the footsteps of his father Gene Bartow, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, for about as long as he can remember.
“Ever since I was 12 or 13 years old, I knew I wanted to go into coaching,” Bartow said. “It was never really a matter of if I was going to into it. I knew pretty early on I wanted to be a coach.”
Over 40 years later, Bartow comes to the helm of the USF men’s basketball after the firing of former coach Orlando Antigua with ties to some of the greatest names in the history of the game, as well as 30 years of his own coaching experience.
Raised and taught in Birmingham, Alabama, Bartow had the privilege of watching his father create the athletic department at University of Alabama-Birmingham and then go on to play for that team under his father from 1980-85.
Bartow made the most of his time as a Blazer student athlete, playing on UAB’s golf team while on his dad’s basketball roster. Even as a multi-sport collegiate athlete, however, Bartow was a self-admitted ‘back-up’ under his father during his playing tenure.
While filling that role, Bartow had the vantage point to begin to understand the game from a coach’s perspective.
“I think in the role that I was in, I was very much in a role where I could observe,” Bartow said. “I had (my father) and I could study the game. I wasn’t a ‘marquee’ player, but I was still an integral part of the team.”
Graduating from UAB with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1985, Bartow would continue his student and coaching career in 1985 at Indiana as a graduate assistant under coach Bobby Knight.
Learning under the tutelage of Knight, the third-winningest coach in men’s college basketball history, Bartow would spend two seasons with the Hoosiers from 1985-87.
Along with helping Indiana to a national championship in his second season as an assistant in1987, Bartow still draws from his brief time with the Hoosiers and Knight.
“I’m a very attention to detail oriented guy, and I got a lot of that from coach Knight,” Bartow said. “I try to be very prepared with the players in terms of game preparation and practice preparation from coach Knight. Just his intensity, his passion, and the way he coached the game.”
Following his stint at Indiana, Bartow served as an assistant for two seasons at William & Mary before returning home to work as an assistant to his father at UAB in 1989.
Bartow work under his father for seven seasons, until his father’s retirement as coach of the Blazers in 1996.
While having conflicting coaching styles, Bartow has taken pieces of both his father and Knight and tied them into his own way to relate and teach his players.
“My father was softer spoken, and would convey his message and deal with his players differently than coach Knight,” Bartow said. “I think in coaching, you’ve got to be who you are and coach to your own personality, whatever that is. You can’t try to be someone you’re not. I think you’re personality and the way you do things is so important.”
With the ability to name his own successor following 17 years as the only coach in UAB history, father Gene named Bartow to his first head coaching position in 1996.
Bartow led the Blazers from 1997-2002, posting a 103-83 record that saw UAB in the NCAA Tournament in 1999.
Departing from Birmingham after his sixth season, Bartow served as the coach at East Tennessee State from 2003-15 where he led the Buccaneers to the NCAA Tournament in 2004, 2005, and 2010.
Hired to be an assistant to Antigua this past summer, Bartow was named the interim coach following Antigua’s release on Jan. 3.
Taking over a team that is currently six games under .500 and still winless in the AAC (6-12, 0-7), Bartow now leads a Bulls squad that is still riddled with issues following the departure of last year’s leading scorer Jahmal McMurray, which leaves USF with only eight players on scholarship.
“Coach Bartow has really bought in,” senior center Ruben Guerrero said. “He really is trying to bring the program up. He’s an extremely hard worker. People don’t see it, but he’s in here the most time out of the whole team.
“Him being energetic and him being here for us, I think it’s really bringing guys up. It really makes some guys really want to be excited to play for him, and build the program.”
Despite being on track to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-straight season, Bartow said that losing games and players on the court has more to do with what his players do off of it.
“It’s really more behind the curtain than outside, but we have to win today off the floor,” Bartow said. “Whether it’s academics, whether it’s how they conduct their day-to-day business or their apartment and housing and how they live there. It’s their attitude around other students.
“From A-to-Z, I want a winning culture, professionalism, and I want them proud of them being a USF basketball player.”
With passion, optimism and a fresh approach, Murry looks to be the next Bartow to father a basketball resurgence.