Updated at 4:45 p.m. Feb. 16, 2012
Grossmont High School has dedicated its basketball game Friday night against Helix Charter High School to the memory of football coach Ron Murphy, who died early Tuesday after a battle with skin cancer.
Students and staff were still in shock Thursday after learning Valentine’s Day that Murphy had died at home early Tuesday.
He was 48.
Players said they heard the news from Luke Murphy, the 19-year-old son of the fourth-year coach in a meeting Tuesday morning that included Principal Dan Barnes and Danny Goodrich, the team’s offensive coordinator.*
Ron Murphy had recently gone for melanoma treatment in Riverside and told players several weeks ago he was stepping down to fight his disease, players told Patch.
Wednesday, flowers were left at a football field memorial, and a Facebook tribute page was set up.
“We are also dedicating the [basketball] game [against Helix] tomorrow night to Ron,” Grossmont ASB adviser Jeremy Hersch said Thursday. “We will have a moment of silence before the game.”
Murphy’s last Foothiller team was perhaps the most remarkable, advancing to the second round of CIF San Diego playoffs last November with a stunning victory after being down 25 points at halftime.
Theresa Kemper, who until October was principal at Grossmont, hired Murphy as head football coach and special-education teacher.
“At the interview, I was impressed with his passion about life and devotion to kids and must say that he exceeded my expectations in every way,” Kemper said Wednesday. “He was better than good at both; he was great.”
She called Murphy a principled man and genuinely good person who “exemplified dedication, hard work and drive to make the world a better place.”
At the same time, Kemper said, “he was a man of compassion and reasonableness and had a very big heart. He made an indelible mark on the people and world around him. I will deeply miss Ron Murphy.”
Michael Leimbach, a student leader on campus, said: “This upcoming Friday, our ASB will be using a portion of our pep assembly for the Helix/Grossmont basketball game in order to remember Coach Murphy.”
Dani Murphy, his wife of 27 years, also works on the Grossmont High School campus in facilities management for the Grossmont Union High School District.
According to U-T San Diego, Murphy died in his sleep Tuesday at his home.* He lived in El Cajon, just south of Santee.
“The community has lost a great coach and great family man,” the paper’s website quoted Goodrich as saying. Goodrich was an assistant four seasons on Murphy’s staff.
Murphy had a melanoma removed from his chest about a year ago and was given a clean bill of health, the newspaper reported. But Murphy noticed lumps under his arm before the season. They were diagnosed as benign, Goodrich said.
After the season, Murphy had the lumps examined again, Bill Dickens reported.
“That’s when they discovered the cancer,” Goodrich was quoted as saying. “It had spread all over his body. It was about four weeks ago when he started treatment. But it was too late.”
Paul Anderson, whose son, Josh, was a sophomore halfback, told Patch: “Yesterday, one of the varsity players suggested bringing flowers to school today and the varsity and JV had an impromptu ceremony at midfield (around the G) and started a monument to Coach.”
“When picking up my son this [afternoon] we went by the field and many players and other students were continuing to bring flowers. Hopefully, the janitors will not see this as a mess and will leave the monument that has been started to the Coach.”
While at the football field Wednesday, Anderson said, “I asked several players if any of them had any memories of the coach they wanted to share. Finally after one player stepped forward, they all had something to say. It was quite amazing to listen and watch, touching to say the least.”
Junior Ryan Green, a wide receiver and defense back on the football team, said, “He was just a great guy. He taught us a lot about life, life lessons and also about coaching. ... He always tried to give 100 percent in everything he did. I'm never going to forget everything he taught me.”
He wasn't just a coach, he said.
“He cared about all of the players, their well-being. I'm thankful for the three years I had with him.”
Grossmont girls soccer coach John Neill posted on Facebook: “Some men are considered great because of their words and some because of their actions. Coach Ron Murphy will always be considered great because of the way he impacted those around him each day. He lived it, not just talked it.”
Santana basketball coach Tim Barry told EastCountySports.com., “This is a sad loss.” Barry shared a classroom with Murphy five years ago at the Santee high school, where Murphy graduated in 1982. “What a nice man—one of the best teachers I have ever met.”
Damon Chase, athletic director at rival Helix Charter High School, told Patch: “Our thoughts are with the Grossmont football and Murphy families.”
Helix coach Troy Starr, whose team won a state title in December, called Murphy an excellent coach who always had his teams compete hard “until the final whistle.”
“They always played with class, and that is a reflection of their head coach,” Starr said Thursday. “In high school football coaching circles, Ron had the reputation for being a good guy, someone who truly loved football and working with kids. This is just such a very sad ending; our thoughts are with Ron’s family and his team.”
News of Murphy’s passing was shared with Grossmont district staff via email Tuesday:
Early this morning, Grossmont High School was informed that Coach Ron Murphy had passed away peacefully in his sleep to put an end to his battle with cancer. Mr. Murphy joined our district in 2006 as a teacher at Santana High, and came to Grossmont High School in 2008 as a teacher and head football coach.
Below is a message from his wife, Dani:
Ronald Richard Murphy, born to Richard and Antoinette Murphy on December 20, 1963, passed away on February 14, 2012 after a hard-fought battle with melanoma.
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Dani; daughter Whitney, 24; and sons Jordan, 21, and Luke, 19, and his beautiful granddaughter Kennedy Antoinette, 6 months. Ron also leaves behind his sister Kim Martin (Joe) and their son Anthony, along with numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
Aside from spending time with his family, Ron's passion was teaching and coaching football. Including stops at Poway, Santana, West Hills, Southwestern and Mesa College, he wraps up a 4 year stint as a teacher and the head football coach at Grossmont High School where he felt honored to be a Foothiller and privileged to be around great staff, students and especially his football players.
A celebration of Ron's life will take place on the football field at Grossmont High School on Saturday, February 18th at 9:00am.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Grossmont Football.
On Grossmont’s school bulletin, a notice is posted: “This Friday wear mustaches in honor of Coach Murphy and wear them to the basketball game too!”
Students are calling it Murphy Mustache Mania.
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Goodrich was named head coach. School district spokeswoman Catherine Martin said Goodrich has not been named Murphy’s successor. Also, he lived in north El Cajon, not Santee as previously reported.