Thursday, November 25, 2004

Advice to Wayne Morgan: Leave the In-State Games Alone

I guess coaching genius Wayne Morgan knows more about major-college basketball in this state than I know.

Morgan joined Iowa State’s staff as an assistant coach in July, 2002, after a 13-17 record got him fired as Long Beach State’s head coach following the 2001-2002 season.

Morgan was hired as the Cyclones’ head coach May 14, 2003 after Larry Eustachy admitted he couldn’t control his drinking and was dismissed.

It seemed like everybody but the student manager and the team ballboy were interviewed for the job, and Morgan seemed to be the fourth of fifth choice when they finally told him he could have Eustachy’s chair.

A 20-13 break-in record that included a loss to Rutgers in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York evidently has given Morgan the idea that he has more decision-making powers than his Iowa State bosses.

He sounds like he wants to tell people in this state that Iowa State maybe shouldn’t be cluttering up his schedule with Drake, Northern Iowa and Iowa every season.

At least that’s how it sounded the other night after the Cyclones pounded Drake, 73-46, at Hilton Coliseum.

Morgan indicated Iowa State wouldn’t mind scheduling some opponents that would get the team on TV beyond the city limits of Council Bluffs and Davenport.

ESPN and ESPN2, of course, are the TV basketball darlings these days, so I thought Morgan was saying that Iowa State would like to work with officials of the networks to schedule schools other than Drake, Iowa and Northern Iowa.

Actually, I couldn’t quite figure out what Morgan was trying to say. Especially when he admitted the fans look forward to games against Drake, Iowa and Northern Iowa.

So who doesn’t look forward to them then?

It sounds like Morgan to me.

But now the guy seems to be changing his posture on this whole matter. The day after the Drake game, Morgan issued a statement saying he didn’t mean to imply that he was considering dropping games with in-state rivals.

Naturally, he said he was “misinterpreted.”

I guess that means he thinks reporters didn’t hear him correctly.

You know the drill. When cornered, blame the reporters.

That’s the way it goes these days. People are either thinking their comments are “misinterpreted” or they say their words were “taken out of context.”

Morgan’s statement in an Associated Press story said he wanted to “affirm that we understand that the contests between the intrastate Division I schools are strong traditional rivalries.”

Hopefully, someone at Iowa State pointed out to Morgan that what he said right after the Drake game was dumb.

And, hopefully, it was someone who remembers the 1968-69 season when coach Maury John’s Bulldogs pummeled Iowa State twice—81-71 at Iowa State and 94-71 at Drake.

Hopefully, it was someone who recalled that the John’s 1969-70 Drake team crushed Iowa State, 86-62.

Hopefully, it was someone who recalled that John’s 1970-71 team blitzed Iowa State, 87-63, at Ames.

Glen Anderson was Iowa State’s coach then.

Nice guy, bad coach.

How embarrassing it was in those years at the old Armory--where Iowa State played its games then--that Drake fans outnumbered Cyclone fans and chanted, “Hang it up, Andy! Hang it up!” from the rafters of a building that looked like it needed to be bulldozed.

If anybody should have been talking about canceling out of a series then, it was Drake.

Iowa State was hopelessly overmatched in the series. It was so bad that the Cyclone brass had to hire John away from Drake just to get the Bulldogs from continuing to blast them on the court.

In those days, Drake coaches and fans might have snickered about Iowa State’s horrible program over coffee, but at least they were smart enough to not say anything publicly.

Morgan seemed to be trying to stage some sort of power play on the scheduling matter after the Drake game.

It’s a good thing his naïve comments didn’t go any further than they did. If it had gotten to the point where he and Iowa State specifically indicated they’d like to quit playing Iowa every season, then you’d have had a horrible situation.

Don’t forget, it took 43 years – from 1934 to 1977 – for those two schools to resume a football rivalry that ended stupidly.

A sudden Iowa State decision, made by a coach who hasn’t done his homework, to interrupt a rivalry with Iowa – or Drake or UNI – would be ridiculous.

Before Morgan should start saying anything about maybe dropping Drake, Iowa or UNI from his schedule, he should look at what’s on his plate this season.

He’s got Northern Colorado, Bucknell and Stephen F. Austin coming into Ames for a tournament this weekend. He’s got Howard, Wagner and Tennessee State coming in later.

Give me a break. He’s going to dump games with Iowa, Drake and UNI to schedule more garbage like that in the future?

A couple of coaches have made lame attempts at changing the intrastate games in this state before.

One year, Lute Olson – who, understandably, is God’s gift to coaching – threatened to quit putting Drake on his Iowa schedules because Bulldog fans shouted obscenities at his wife and daughter in a game at Veterans Memorial Auditorium here.

Nothing happened.

Iowa still plays Drake, and should continue playing Drake. The series should never end.

Another time, George Raveling – another coaching giant at Iowa – for some reason couldn’t work a game against Drake into his 1984-85 schedule. I guess it was because the Hawkeyes had to play basketball powerhouses George Mason and Illinois Wesleyan.

After realizing his mistake, Raveling made sure the next two games against the Bulldogs were played in Des Moines—even though he had been replaced as the Hawkeyes’ coach by Tom Davis.

My advice to Wayne Morgan is this: You do the coaching, let somebody else do the scheduling. By all means, leave the games against Iowa, Drake and UNI alone.

Actually, Morgan should be standing outside Hilton Coliseum, trying to sell tickets to his games instead of second-guessing who Iowa State is playing.

Cyclone attendance has been on a free-fall ever since Johnny Orr was the coach. The Drake game was Iowa State’s season opener, and all it drew was a crowd of 10,426 in 14,092-seat Hilton Coliseum.

Now I can’t wait for those games against Howard and Wagner. I’ll bet they really pack ‘em in up there at Hilton for those.

Vol. 4, No. 279
Nov. 25, 2004