Dennis Murphy has been named the new boys’ basketball coach at Pallotti. The long-time assistant coach within the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference takes over for Shae Johnson, who resigned after seven seasons, the last of which produced the Panthers’ first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference title. The Panthers also named a new girls’ basketball coach, Rod Hairston.

After being a finalist for multiple head coaching jobs in the past, Murphy will now get the chance to lead his own team, one that is expected to feature talented seniors Tariq Owens and Marquise Reed.

“What appealed to me about Pallotti is they are a successful program that has a strong foundation,” Murphy said. “I’m looking to build on what they’ve done in the past and also developing the players and program off the court to further increase the quality of the student-athletes we recruit.”

Prior to spending last season as an assistant coach at O’Connell, Murphy served on the staff under long-time St. John’s coach Paul DeStefano for 13 years. On Monday, Murphy was unanimously selected from among 15 applicants by a four-person committee of people within the Pallotti community, according to Atheltic Director Rick Diggs.

“What blew us away was how well prepared he was; it was amazing,” Diggs said. “He was able to integrate Pallotti into his answers and vision and we were impressed by how much he knew about the school.”

Coach Rod Hairston, seen here coaching McNamara, now arrives at his sixth school in as many years. (Mark Gail/WASHINGTON POST)
Hairston to lead the Panthers

Bullis girls’ basketball Coach Rod Hairston has stepped down to take that same position at Pallotti, the 2006 All-Met coach of the year’s sixth coaching stop in as many years.

Hairston is best known for winning five consecutive Maryland 4A championships at Eleanor Roosevelt from 2004-09. He has since coached at McNamara, Northwestern (as an emergency interim coach), Wise (as an assistant), Bullis this past season and now Pallotti.

Hairston cited the Laurel school’s proximity to his Lanham home, the Panthers’ stronger conference and the opportunity to establish a winning team as factors in the move. Hairston said he lives about 20 minutes from Pallotti and about 50 minutes from Bullis when traffic is flowing.

Hairston was officially hired Monday and inherits a team that went 19-16 last season, under fourth-year coach Josh Pratt, with a junior-heavy lineup. The Panthers play in the IAAM-A conference, with Spalding and many schools from the Baltimore area.

“I just think it’s an opportunity to come over and try to build a program, whereas Bullis had history,” said Hairston, whose team in his lone season at the Potomac private school tied for the ISL A regular season title and won the league tournament. “Bullis had players that were good players and so does Pallotti, but there are real notable players at Bullis. Pallotti is an opportunity to make a name for a program, and that is the challenge that I am looking for.”

Among the players Hairston leaves behind at Bullis is senior post Lynee’ Belton, considered one of the top recruits in the country, as well as seniors Kirby Porter and Ashley DeLeonibus; DeLeonibus has committed to William & Mary. Bullis sophomore point guard Raven James recently transferred to Paul VI Catholic.

Because of his extended stint at Eleanor Roosevelt, Hairston said he is better known in Prince George’s County than in Montgomery County, which could help attract players to Pallotti. The tuition there also is less expensive than at Bullis. He said he does not anticipate any of the Bullis players following him to his new school.

Hairston considered how it might be perceived to make another coaching move after another one-year stop but said that all the changes at the time were the appropriate ones to make.

McNamara dismissed him after one season and the Northwestern and Wise stops were planned to be for the short term.

“I think it would be different if I was moving from school to school because I lost or I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do or any other reason than to get better,” he said. “Some people might look at it as a negative, and that’s their prerogative. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I’ve grown and I’ve succeeded and set goals everywhere I went.”

After the run at Eleanor Roosevelt, Hairston tied for the WCAC regular season title in his one year at McNamara. He took over at Northwestern in early December of the 2010-11 season and steadied the Prince George’s 4A program to a middle-of-the-pack finish. Then he helped out at Wise, under his “mentor,” Walter Clark. That team advanced to the 4A state final. Then came Bullis, where the Bulldogs (21-5) beat six-time defending champion Georgetown Visitation in the conference championship.

“It’s always been something better,” he said of changing coaching jobs. “It’s always been for a positive move. I think this is going to be a positive move as well.”

Related: High school coaching vacancies