Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Old friends, new start

Murray follows Pim with Springbrook boys lacrosse

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Dan Gross
slug: blax_Murray_sp040208a_rgb Photo Dan Gross Darren Murray, new head coach at Springbrook HS, taking the place of Mark Pim who has moved to The Heights school as head coach. Gaithersburg studio. 3/28/08
Since 1997, the year boys lacrosse became a varsity sport in Montgomery County, the Springbrook sidelines have been manned by one familiar face. Now, it’s another familiar face at the helm.

Last spring, ’99 Springbrook graduate Darren Murray was named the program’s second-ever head coach, stepping in for the man who began the Blue Devils program, Mark Pim.

Incidentally, Pim coached Murray for three years, including on the school’s first lacrosse team in 1997. Now, the sport has taken the two men in different directions. Pim is now coaching at The Heights School in Potomac, and Murray at his alma mater.

Murray had never even considered lacrosse until Pim ‘‘recruited” him for the team as a sophomore in high school. His athletic exploits had previously consisted of running track, swimming, and playing football. But once he was introduced to the sport, it was love at first sight.

‘‘Mark was the reason I started playing lacrosse,” said Murray. ‘‘On our side of the county, no one had even really heard of it, so he just took a bunch of athletes from other sports under his wing, and we never looked back. Our first two years, I think we won a total of five games. And then as a senior, we went 12-1. So we just kept getting better.”

After graduating from Springbrook, Murray decided he wasn’t done with lacrosse. He played it as a club sport at Millersville (Pa.) University for two years, then transferred to Salisbury, where he competed until chronic back problems forced him to give it up.

But for the past two years, he rejoined Pim as a vital part of the Blue Devils program. He was not only an assistant on the boys squad, but coached the school’s ‘‘feeder” club team, which consisted mostly of freshmen and sophomores.

Yet it never crossed Murray’s mind that he might be the varsity head coach this soon.

‘‘When I came back three years ago, this didn’t even occur to me,” said Murray.

Pim resigned in May of last year, soon after the Blue Devils went 13-2 and made it all the way to the Class 4A-3A West Region final. But he didn’t stay retired for long. Two weeks later, he agreed to take a head coaching position at The Heights, where his son, David, was slated to be a freshman in 2007-08.

It’s the elder Pim’s first association with private-school lacrosse, and also the first time he’s gotten to coach his son.

‘‘He’s been at camps with me, but this is first time that we’re doing it together as a team, and it’s fun,” said Pim. ‘‘I guess for me, a lot of it is still new. I’m sort of still determining a lot of teams that we play, where I sort of knew where teams were in the past. That part is a new learning curve for me more so than the players who are used to it.”

Pim is still very much aware of the Springbrook lacrosse program. He remains a social studies teacher at the school, so he sees his former players five days a week. He sees Murray often enough to offer any bit of help that he can, though he says his former player-turned-coach has taken the job and run with it.

But it won’t be an easy first season for Murray. He doesn’t get to coach numerous four-year starters like Pim did a year ago, and a fantastic cast of seniors including All-American and first-team All-Gazette midfielder Ben Simmons, fellow midfielder David Abramson and attackman Adam Brizendine (50 goals a year ago) are all gone.

When the going gets rough, he might be turning to a familiar ally for help.

‘‘I’ve known Coach Pim and his family for so long,” said Murray. ‘‘And he’s been in this system for so long. I’ll definitely pick his brain as much as I can.”