BATON ROUGE, La. — It looked like quite a match.
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva aimed high and reeled in one of the biggest names in college softball. Patrick Murphy said the pull of Louisiana was too strong to pass up.
Friday afternoon, they stood in the same room, beaming over their new arrangement. Murphy, the former Yvette Girouard assistant who turned Alabama into a softball powerhouse, had jumped to take over rival LSU.
The honeymoon lasted all of three days. So did the marriage. Murphy got it annulled.
In a stunning flip-flop Sunday, Murphy informed LSU officials he had “a change of heart,” and backed out, intent on making a U-turn toward Tuscaloosa.
The Crimson Tide happily took him back.
“I am glad to see that he has had a change of heart, because I have always known that he is one of the finest coaches in America,” Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore said.
Meanwhile, Alleva found himself in a new, difficult spot.
Three days after he thought he’d wrapped up his search for Girouard’s replacement, he had to crank it up again.
“I’m really disappointed. It’s all on him (Murphy),” Alleva said Sunday. “We made a great offer. He was excited. He said he wanted to retire in Louisiana, but then he got cold feet and said he wanted to go back home (to Alabama).”
Evidently, Murphy’s assistant coach, Alyson Habetz - a Crowley native and former University of Louisiana at Lafayette player who also planned to come to LSU - doesn’t want to stay in Baton Rouge, either.
Alleva said he got a call at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday from senior woman administrator Miriam Segar, who told him Murphy had changed his mind.
Shortly thereafter, Alleva met with Murphy and Habetz at Alleva’s office.
Murphy confirmed his decision to walk away from LSU.
“I appreciate everything LSU did. They did everything in a first-class manner,” Murphy said in a statement released through Alabama.
“This change of heart is not in any way a reflection on anyone at LSU. It is solely something that I am responsible for. I can only convey to everyone my deepest apologies for putting all of those who care about both of these programs through a difficult time. In my heart, I know that this is the right thing for me to do.”
Alleva, for his part, said he then asked Habetz if she wanted to interview for the LSU job.
“She said, ‘No, I’m not ready to be a head coach.’ So she’s not on the table. She’s going back with him (Murphy),” Alleva said. “This was totally out of the blue. He already had his mind made up. I tried to talk him out of it. He just got cold feet.”
Murphy’s hiring was seen as a coup for LSU, which invaded rival territory and not only se-cured a standing head coach, but one whose success is nearly unprecedented in the South-eastern Conference.
Murphy, who started his coaching career as an assistant under Girouard at ULL, piled up a 712-210 record in 13 seasons at Alabama, with seven appearances in the Women’s College World Series.
Attempts to reach Girouard and Habetz were unsuccessful.
Coaching flip-flops like this one are rare, but not entirely unheard of.
A few memorable examples:
Four years ago, Florida men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan, fresh off back-to-back national championships, agreed to take over the Orlando Magic - but less than a week later, he returned to Gainesville, Fla.
That same year, Dana Altman agreed to leave Creighton to become men’s basketball coach at Arkansas. Less than 24 hours later, he apologized to Razorbacks fans “with deep regret,” announcing he in-tended to stay at Creighton.
In 2004, basketball coach Rick Majerus, who’d retired after 15 seasons at Utah, agreed to quit his job as a television analyst to coach at Southern California. Less than a week later, he backed out.
In 1995, then-Kansas foot-ball coach Glen Mason agreed to take over at Georgia, then flip-flopped and stayed at Kansas (Mason, who went on to coach at Minnesota, was later quoted in The Sporting News as saying he “made a huge mistake” in passing up the Georgia job, which ultimately went to Jim Donnan).
In 1993, Bobby Cremins announced his intent to leave Georgia Tech for the men’s basketball job at his alma mater, South Carolina. Three days later, he said he’d changed his mind, opting instead to stay in Atlanta.
Alleva said this is the first time he’s had a coach back out after accepting a job offer.
“It’s better that we know now, move forward and get a real purple-and-gold Tiger person,” he said.
Alleva said LSU’s search for a new softball coach started Monday.