In 19 seasons, Morrill has amassed over 350 career wins.

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This article originally appeared in Basketball Times. CLICK HERE to get your subscription to BT.



It’s a Monday morning at Utah State University, and sports information director Doug Hoffman is making his routine visit to the men’s basketball office. He greets head coach Stew Morrill and runs down a list of media requests, to which Morrill replies, “I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to do that and I don’t want to do that.”

The two spend a few minutes discussing the upcoming week and the conversation always concludes with Morrill telling Hoffman, “Okay, sure I will do all of those interviews. “

Attention is something that Morrill likes to hide from. He is very reluctant to talk about himself. By his own admission, to a fault. Perhaps that is why his impressive achievements have been greatly overlooked.

Humble and very unassuming, many could bump into the Utah State coach and not even know who it was they just brushed. But quiet doesn’t not mean unapproachable.

If you want to talk about “team,” Morrill will hold court for hours. If you would like to engage in a discussion of teaching, Morrill will pull up a chair and have his meals brought to the table.

His peers use words like sincere, class and integrity when describing the 51-year old Utah-native. Oklahoma’s Kelvin Sampson affectionately refers to him as a “throwback” who is concerned only with teaching and the finer points of the game of basketball.

And that is something that Morrill embraces.

“I am definitely old school,” laughs Morrill. “I love the preparation, figuring out what we are going to run and figuring out what I am going to teach. I tell people all the time that being old school is not a bad thing; it’s just not new school.”

Now in his 19th season, the old-school coach has racked up over 350 wins, has taken each of the programs he has coached to postseason and has done it with little fanfare.

Exactly the way he wants it.

After posting back-to-back win seasons at Colorado State, Morrill’s move to Logan, Utah came as a surprise to a lot of people. Many viewed it as a step down, but Morrill wasn’t concerned with high-profile.

“Utah State is a better situation than people think,” says Morrill. “Plus it was an opportunity for me to be closer to my mother and my brother and sister. My family lives just an hour away so it was an easy decision.”

And no word means more to Morrill than “family.”

Like all coaches, Morrill puts in long hours working his craft, but when the whistle blows his attention turns to his wife Vicki, and their four children, sons Jesse (25) and Alan (23) and daughters Nicole (20) and Tiffany (17).

And if you thought talking “team” or “teaching” struck a good chord with Morrill, ask him about Jesse’s possible future in coaching. Nicole’s studies at Utah State or the nearly 50 foster children that Morrill’s have hosted and the proud father will talk you right through the next season.

So it’s not surprising that his days at Montana, with former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery, are among his fondest memories as a coach.

“We were both single then,” says Morrill. “Mike and I both met our wives and started our families when we were at Montana. We had a lot of success on the court as well, but meeting our wives and getting married in Missoula was special.”

Morrill jokingly admits that he also realized -- during that time -- that he might be able to coach.

Morrill spent eight seasons as an assistant under Montgomery at Montana. Following the Grizzlies’ second-straight NIT appearance in 1986, Montgomery left for Stanford thus beginning the head-coaching career of Morrill.

Morrill credits the influence of coaches when he was young as being the reason he pursued a similar path and continued to put across the same message -- do things the right way.

“Anyone who knows Mike knows that is what he is all about,” says Morrill. “Growing up, I had so many coaches that stressed the same thing, and I really wanted to have an opportunity to make the same impact on others.

And Morrill has done just that.

Utah State failed to earn a postseason bid in Morrill’s first season, but in the past five seasons, Morrill has amassed over 120 wins, which include back-to-back 28 win campaigns and five straight postseason appearances. Not bad for a coach who had to work with a series of five one-year deals at Montana.

In recent years, Morrill has had lengthy and lucrative opportunities presented to him, but has decided to remain at Utah State. He has even joked about the trend of hiring young-slick coaches, saying, “I was young once, but I was never slick.”

Stew Morrill might not be slick, but he is real. He has witnessed a lot of changes in the game over the years, but he continues to coach today with the same set of values instilled in him at an early age.

“If I ever second-guessed a coach or one of my teachers, it would not have gone over well in my house,” says Morrill. “Today, parents second-guess more than the players. Things are much different in today’s game, and I am still learning to adjust. I was never an earring guy, but I have even learned to adjust to that. If a player wants to have an earring then that is okay.”

Adjusting, but not compromising, is what has made Morrill the excellent coach that he is. But even after another sensational season at Utah State, Morrill wonders aloud just how long, “Old school will survive.”

Family, teaching and hard work are terms often used by Morrill, and absurd, appalling and ridiculous would be good words to describe any discussion of the “the best coaches in America,” that does not include the name Stew Morrill.


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