Murry Bartow became the 15th head coach in the 81-year history of East Tennessee State University men’s basketball on April 22, 2003, and he has wasted little time making a place for himself in the tradition-rich history of Buccaneer hoops.
Since joining the ETSU family, Bartow has posted the school’s best winning percentage by a coach with five or more years of service, winning 58 percent of his games (208-151). He eclipsed 200 wins at ETSU and 300 wins for his career during the 2013-14 season, and his Buccaneer teams have averaged just under 20 wins a season since Bartow arrived in Johnson City. In addition, his ETSU teams – which have eclipsed 20 wins in five of his 10 seasons on the bench – have won the Southern Conference championship in 2004, the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title in 2007, and back-to-back A-Sun Tournament championships in 2009 and 2010.
In 2013-14, the Bucs made their sixth postseason appearance in 11 seasons under Bartow, advancing to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament thanks to a victory over traditional rival Chattanooga in the first round. Winning 19 games on the year, the team also advanced to the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
In 2010-11, the Bucs enjoyed a 24-win campaign, earning their first invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament and advancing to the semifinals of that event. To reach that game against Iona, the Bucs enjoyed victories over former Southern Conference rival Furman, and a quarterfinal win over Ohio University, marking the first time in school history the team had captured two postseason victories in the same season. During the regular season, the Bucs enjoyed their highest RPI ranking since 2004, and won road games against quality opponents such as the SEC’s Mississippi State and Atlantic 10’s Dayton.
Bartow did arguably his best coaching job ever during the 2009-10 season, as the Bucs overcame the tragic preseason death of rising sophomore Seth Coy and the loss of injured senior captain Mike Smith to still win the A-Sun title and make the program’s ninth trip all time to the NCAAs. The Bucs placed three players on the A-Sun All-Tournament team, and took on Kentucky in March Madness.
During the 2008-09 season, Bartow guided the Buccaneers to another 20-win season, as ETSU posted a 23-11 record. Even more impressive, the Bucs captured the A-Sun Tournament title and made the program’s eighth trip all-time to the NCAA Tournament. ETSU placed three players on the league’s all-tournament team, and ultimately made an impressive showing in the first round of the NCAAs as a No. 16 seed, taking No. 1-seeded Pittsburgh to the wire.
In 2003-04, Bartow led the Bucs to arguably the best season in their history, finishing with a program-best 15-1 record in Southern Conference play, setting a new school record with a 16-game winning streak, and coming within one win of matching the best overall record in school history with a 27-6 mark. ETSU finished first in the SoCon North Division for the fourth year in a row and won its second overall regular season title in four years. In addition, the Bucs captured the SoCon Tournament title for the second straight year and the sixth time in school history, and the team competed in its seventh NCAA Tournament.
For his efforts in 2003-04, Bartow was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year by both the league’s coaches and media. Plus, the Bucs had three players named first-team All-SoCon, including senior Zakee Wadood – who was selected as the league’s most valuable player – and Tim Smith – who was selected as the tournament’s most valuable player.
In 2006-07, Bartow once again led the Bucs to one of the best seasons in school history, as the team went 24-10 overall and 16-2 in Atlantic Sun play to finish as the regular season champions. The squad earned a trip to the National Invitation Tournament, and for the second time in four seasons, Bartow was honored by his peers with the A-Sun Coach of the Year award.
The 51-year-old Bartow, who was also head coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham from 1996-2002, has won 282 games in his career and made appearances in eight postseason tournaments as a Division I coach – including the NCAA Tournament in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2010. Bartow replaced former ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis, who spent seven seasons at ETSU before taking the head coaching position at Penn State following the 2002-03 season. DeChellis is currently the head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Bartow enjoyed his share of success early in his head coaching career. Overall, his UAB teams posted a 103-83 record that included 48 Conference USA victories – second only to Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins in that same time span.
The Blazers – who enjoyed 20-win seasons twice under Bartow – also made three postseason appearances during this time, getting invitations to the NIT in 1997 and 1998, and a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1999. In 23 years as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Bartow has been to 16 post-season tournaments (10 NCAA and 6 NITs).
The son of Coach Gene and Ruth Bartow, Murry literally grew up around the game of basketball, and has apprenticed at the side of two of the game’s master teachers, Gene Bartow and Indiana’s Bob Knight.
Bartow began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Indiana (1985-87) and worked with the Hossiers’ 1987 NCAA Championship team. He then worked for two seasons as a full-time assistant and recruiting coordinator at William & Mary (1987-89).
During his seven seasons as an assistant on the UAB staff (1989-96), Bartow developed a reputation as an energetic teacher and recruiter, and was often mentioned as one of the nation’s top defensive strategists.
A 1980 graduate of Birmingham’s W.A. Berry High School, Bartow was an outstanding point guard, earning All-Jefferson County honors and his team’s MVP award as a senior. He played basketball at UAB from 1980-85, and was part of four NCAA Tournament teams, three Sun Belt Conference championship teams and UAB’s 1984 Great Alaska Shootout title team. He was also a member of the golf team while at UAB.
Bartow earned his B.A. in business administration from UAB in 1985, and his master’s degree from Indiana in 1987. Bartow, a native of Warrensburg, Missouri, is married to the former Tammy Earley of Birmingham, a registered nurse and former UAB cheerleader. They have three sons, Alec, Stephen and Connor.