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Tauros GM/head coach Marty Murray takes USHL opportunity

Submitted photo Former Minot Minotauros general manager and head coach Marty Murray instructs his team during an NAHL game. Murray announced his departure Tuesday to lead the Sioux Falls Stampede. Photo by Jamie Goebel.

From a bleak seven-win first season to a Robertson Cup championship game run to a bizarre ending to this year’s campaign with the COVID-19 pandemic, Marty Murray has experienced a lot as the Minot Minotauros general manager and head coach over the last eight and a half seasons.

All things (good and bad), however, have to come to an end.

Murray announced his decision Tuesday afternoon that he accepted the general manager and head coach positions for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the United States Hockey League (USHL) — a step up in the junior hockey ranks from the North American Hockey League (NAHL).

The decision wasn’t easy to make.

“It was incredibly difficult,” Murray said. “Minot was home for 15 years for our family. It wasn’t just a stop in the road. We could have stayed here for a long time. We really weren’t looking to go outside (of Minot), but an opportunity came up. We talked about it and made the difficult decision that our family is ready for a new challenge and an adventure.”

Murray, a former journeyman in the NHL/AHL from 1995 to 2010, was promoted to the Minotauros’ general manager/head coach role after a short stint as the assistant coach in Minot’s inaugural 2011-12 season.

Murray went on to amass a 254-194-44 record. The Tauros have also made seven straight NAHL playoff appearances with Murray at the helm. The second-longest active streak in the league.

Minot won the regular-season Central Division title during the 2016-17 season and went on a magical run during the 2017-18 season to win the franchise’s first Central Cup and reached the Robertson Cup championship game. The Minotauros lost 2-1 to the Shreveport Mudbugs after being tied 1-1 going into the third period.

“You coach and play to win championships,” Murray said when asked if his legacy in Minot was missing something because the Minotauros didn’t win a Robertson Cup. “But I have no regrets. The Central Division is so grueling to get out of year after year. We were always right there. Our goal was to win it, obviously. But you have to look at what our organization has accomplished over the last nine years, and that’s something to be proud of.”

Recognition from his peers has been plentiful. Murray has been named the NAHL Central Division Coach of the Year (2014-15), Central Division Manager of the Year (2015-16 and 2016-17) and NAHL General Manager of the Year (2018-19). The Minotauros were also voted the Central Division’s Organization of the Year twice (2014-15 and 2016-17).

“I can’t thank Brad Porter enough for giving me this opportunity,” Murray said. “I also want to thank everybody for nine great years in Minot. The fans, the corporate partners, the billets, the volunteers — it takes a whole army to make this thing run. We have had that support in Minot from Day 1, even when times weren’t great. This is something I will never forget.”

In a press release, Minotauros governor Brad Porter said the announcement was “bittersweet” and explained: “But I knew this day would eventually come. Today we see a friend and co-founder of the Tauros moving on to new opportunities and future success.”

The Sioux Falls Stampede are the defending 2019 Clark Cup champions — awarded to the victor of the USHL playoffs. The Stampede also won Clark Cups in 2007 and 2015.

Murray will be the eighth general manager and head coach for the Sioux Falls franchise that was founded in 1999.

“It’s another level above. So, if you have aspirations to move up the ladder in terms of coaching pro, then I think it’s a natural step,” Murray said. “I have had the chance in the past to explore other opportunities, but it just didn’t feel right. I was always happy in Minot and still would be. But, the Sioux Falls position was a little different. They are recognized as one of the best organizations in the USHL and all of junior hockey. It just seemed like a good fit.”

The Minotauros have named assistant coach Shane Wagner as the next head coach to succeed Murray. The general manager role is to be determined. More on Wagner will be in tomorrow’s paper, as the Minotauros are planning to hold a digital press conference to introduce Wagner this evening.

“I learned a lot from him,” Murray said about Wagner. “He is a hard-working guy and did whatever was asked of him. Very loyal. As sad as I am to leave Minot, I’m happy for Shane to be able to get that opportunity.”

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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