When La Salle made the Sweet 16 last March for the first time in more than five decades, many close to the Explorers program credited Aaric Murray's dismissal for improving team chemistry and paving the way for an NCAA tournament run.
Perhaps West Virginia is hoping for a similar boost.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins dismissed Murray from the team for undisclosed reasons, CBSSports.com first reported Monday morning. The school announced the move soon afterward, calling it a mutual parting.
That West Virginia would cut loose Murray is an indictment of his character for several reasons. Huggins has traditionally shown unusual patience with players who cause disciplinary problems if he thinks they're capable of helping his team, and there's no doubt the 6-foot-11 Murray's shot blocking and rebounding could have been an asset for West Virginia next season.
Murray averaged 8.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last year for a West Virginia team that staggered to a disappointing 13-19 record in its first season in the Big 12. Though Huggins landed a big man-heavy recruiting class, Murray was the lone proven rim protector on the Mountaineers roster with Deniz Kilicli having graduated and 6-foot-10 Kevin Noreen more of a stretch forward.
What makes Murray's dismissal even more of a blow to West Viginia is the Mountaineers really needed defense and rebounding to be a strength next season. Not only did West Virginia shoot only 40.8 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from behind the arc last season, the Mountaineers lost talented scoring guard Jabarie Hinds to a transfer to UMass this spring.
Murray has had a problematic college career at La Salle and West Virginia, including an arrest in December 2011 while he was sitting out as a transfer. Huggins also suspended Murray last December for a disciplinary violation.
It will be fascinating to see which program is desperate enough to give Murray a third chance next season.
He has size and athleticism. He has graduated from West Virginia. And he will be eligible to play immediately. Therefore you know a coach somewhere will roll the dice even if his checkered history suggests it's a bad gamble.