FAYETTEVILLE HIGH School (FHS) was established 11 years ago. Along with the school came a new Tigers basketball program, a lot of uncertainty, and a head boys basketball coach faced with
the challenge of bringing success. Chris Murdock did not disappoint.
Murdock has been teaching at Fayetteville City Schools (FCS) for 13 years. He gradu- ated from Martin Methodist College in 2009 and obtained his master’s in Educational Leadership in 2019 from Austin Peay State University. Along with coaching the boys basketball team, he instructs government, economics, and US History. He is also a hus- band and father.
Murdock’s journey with the high school basketball team began in the 2011-12 season when the school was established. No seniors or juniors were present, so Murdock had to coach 8th, 9th, and 10th graders who came from FCS’s middle school. Murdock said he appreciates the boys and their parents who elected to stay with FCS.
“We wouldn’t be here without them,” Murdock said.
In that first year of growth, the Tigers only won five games along with a district game. Things flipped the very next season as the team retained all their starters and posted a winning record of 14-11. The Tigers returned in the 2013-14 season to post a 19-11 record and earn a trip to their first district championship, where they lost. They also qualified for their regional tournament that year but lost on a last second shot to Lead Academy, a Nashville team who moved on to the state tournament.
Murdock led his team to a school record of 23-5 the following season, but the Tigers once again lost in the region tournament to Lead Academy, who was starting to become a stumbling block for FHS.
“It’s like we could never get past them,” Murdock said.
However, no one could serve as a stum- bling block for Murdock’s senior player Nick Hopkins, as the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association named him Class A
Mr. Basketball in 2016, making Hopkins the community’s first and only recipient of the award in this historical moment. When the 2016-17 season rolled around, all the players from the Tiger’s original team in 2011 had graduated, and Murdock found himself in the stages of rebuilding a team, winning only six games that year.
“It was like rebuilding from scratch again,” Murdock said. “After being with those players for seven years, now we’ve started the pro- gram over again.”
The Tigers did not stay down for long as they went 19-10 the subsequent year, capturing their first district championship and winning their first regional game. Despite the success, Murdock’s team lost to none other than Lead Academy in their regional semifinals.
“That’s the third time they’ve beaten us,” Murdock said. “As a coach, I’m questioning; I’m like, ‘What are we gonna do? How can we beat them?’”
The answer came in the 2018-19 season when Murdock met up with Lead Academy in the regional semifinals again. The Tigers would finally beat them 75-35.
“I unleashed all the memories of them beating us three times already, and I said, ‘I’m just leaving y’all out there,’” Murdock said.
Though the Tigers could not win the regional championship, the team qualified for the state tournament and finished the season 26-8, a school record.
Murdock said he credits the team’s success to the change of philosophy he made after reading “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon, which encouraged him to help the team get more connected off the court by inviting the boys to his home to participate in non-basketball activities.
The success continued as FHS won three straight district championships, going 25-6 in 2020 despite having only one returning starter from the previous season. The latest district championship victory oc- curred this past season. Murdock has now won four district championships and owns a record of 184-130.
From his coaching career, Murdock said his relationships with his players and their families bring him the most satis- faction. The ultimate goal is to win a state championship, but he is not too worried about that.
“It will take care of itself,” Murdock said. “I want to thank my wife because without her I would not be able to coach basketball,” Murdock added. “She is supportive of the team and is the glue that holds our family together. Thank you, and I love you, Jennifer.” -GN