Story by Collin Morris, Assistant Sports Editor
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, longtime Murray State women’s basketball Head Coach Rob Cross became the 10th winningest coach in OVC history, expanding on his rapidly growing legacy.
Over the course of his nine years as the head coach of the women’s basketball program, Cross has amassed a cumulative 117 wins, an OVC Coach of the Year award and an OVC regular-season title, among other honors.
A Murray State alumnus, Cross’ relationship with the university is extensive. His coaching career began with an assistant coaching position under then women’s basketball Head Coach Eddie Fields. Cross remained in that position for 13 seasons, outlasting Fields, as well as two other head coaches, Joy Williams Felton and Jody Adams.
Cross said his experiences as an assistant coach readily prepared him for his tenure as head coach.
“The three head coaches I worked for had three very different basketball systems and very different personalities, so even though I was here as an assistant for 13 years at the same school, I was exposed, like other people would be moving around to different places,” Cross said. “I got to work for three great people, and I can’t thank them enough for everything they contributed to my growth, both as a person and as a coach.
Just five days after the resignation of his predecessor, Jody Adams, Cross took over as head coach in 2008. He then led the 2008-2009 Racers to a 23-9 record and the program’s first regular-season title.
Cross said he attributes his early success to the way he builds relationships with his players.
“The players on that team knew me very well, and they knew I was going to be there for them no matter what,” Cross said. “I was the one who was always available to them, and they knew we could make this work together, and we still have work to do to win a conference title.
Cross says his commitment to Murray comes from his love for the city, as well as the memories he’s made with his family and team throughout the years.
“The city being named the friendliest town in America a few years ago really is an extension of what the campus means to the town because I think it’s a great place where the people truly care, not just about sports or basketball, but about each other,” Cross said. “The townspeople here really care about the students, and everyone here on campus is really student-centered, and I think that makes [Murray] a special place.”
Of the memories he’s had, Cross said he does have a few favorites both on and off the court.
“As far as athletics go, my favorite memory is watching our players celebrate that first championship that we won,” Cross said. “That was very special, and at the time there was so many banners from the men’s program hanging and there were no championship banners from the women’s program. It was something we can cherish forever. But in general, the biggest thing for me is I’ve helped a lot of people come to college and get a debt-free education, graduate and have a chance to be successful in the rest of their lives.”
After more than two decades of coaching, Cross naturally had a sizable list of influential individuals who’ve contributed to his career.
“My father, from a work ethic standpoint, was influential, but a lot of the men’s head coaches and the women’s head coaches I’ve worked for, as well as the other assistant coaches I’ve worked with, have all been influential, and I’ve tried to take something from everyone,” Cross said.