Monday, December 12, 2005

'F' Bombs At Practices Are Absent As 'Wayne Watcher' Says Morgan 'Has the Most Competent Iowa State Coaching Staff Since the Maury John Era'

There's been plenty of feedback to my column about Wayne Morgan of Iowa State, who I think should be receiving more credit for his ability as a bench coach than he gets from even the most loyal of Cyclone fans.

Last week, Morgan's underdog team manhandled Drake, 89-74, in a game at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, then clinched the state championship by blitzing Iowa, 72-60, four nights later at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

Although he had to wait until at least four other coaches either turned down the Iowa State coaching job or showed no interest in it when asked, Morgan [pictured on the right] had records of 20-13 and 19-12 in his first two seasons, and is 6-2 so far this year.

Not bad for a guy who had to follow Tim Floyd and Larry Eustachy -- both considered strong basketball tacticians -- into the coaching office at Hilton Coliseum.

Here's an e-mail from a guy who knows a lot about collegiate basketball, and is obviously close to the Iowa State scene:

"You are very right about Wayne Morgan. Coach Morgan, and his ability and techniques is the coach for these times. Sure, he knows how to recruit. Strong evidence of that. He also clearly knows how to hire and retain coaches. Damon Archibald IS a great bench coach, and strategy coach and motivator. Everyone else on the bench NOW is cut from that same mold and also know where to find players, how to evaluate them, what to say to them and how to keep them.

"Watch a practice [a real practice, not one where there are lots of 'watchers'] and you will see a coach that has made a good practice plan, given clear instructions to his coaching staff, and will always deal in positives with the players, and if there are negatives to deal with, it is done one-on-one. I believe that Iowa State right now may have the most complete and competent staff that has been there since the Maury John era. They sure look young, but they really know how to coach and teach, not to mention recruit.

"Today's player is not the kind of player who wants to read about what he has done wrong and how he is responsible for a loss. You don't retain these kids by criticizing them publicly. There is another coach in this state that could take a lesson in that. Journalists [and I sort of include myself in that class] may not like how Coach Morgan handles himself at the press conferences because he has certainly got the 'coachspeak' down to a science.

"I have been around the Big 12 for a long time. Since Jack Hartman retired, it WAS a man-to-man league. A zone was something you threw at another team for a couple of possessions to get the other team out of their rhythm. Or a box-and-one was a 'junk' defense that you used when the other team was killing you with one player. In the last three years, every team in the Big 12 [save one, and I bet you can guess who that is] plays a zone defense for at least a third of the minutes in a game. It may be an 'exotic zone,' but a zone nonetheless. Coach Boehem taught Wayne how to coach zone defense, and Wayne has turned it into an art.

"OK, too long, but I too am impressed with Coach Morgan. Although I do sometimes think back to the practices of the previous coach when counting the number of 'F' bombs expelled in 60 seconds was great fun, you can sure learn more about the game at one of Wayne's practices."

--"Wayne Watcher"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS--Damon Archibald is Morgan's associate head coach, and a guy who figures to be an outstanding coach when he runs his own program one of these years. Archibald's late father, Lynn, was the head coach at Idaho State and Utah. Morgan's other young assistants are Eric Brown, Michael Mennenga and Dave Edwards. By the way, I got a charge out of "Wayne Watcher's" comment about the "F" bombs that were the norm at Larry Eustachy's practices].


This e-mail is from an Iowa fan:

"Ron -- My question about Morgan is, how can he lose at home to Iona and beat Iowa? That's sort of Alfordish."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Not only did Morgan's Cyclones get clobbered at Hilton Coliseum by Iona, 89-72, they lost to Fresno State, 84-77, two nights before winning at Drake, 89-74. It seems that nobody can discuss bsketball mediocrity without bringing up the name of Iowa's Steve Alford [pictured on the left].


An e-mailer from central Iowa isn't in favor of Iowa and Iowa State having to play basketball games at Drake and Northern Iowa. Here are some opinions from "My View:"

"Ron, I rarely take issue with anything you say, and really, I am not taking issue with you now, I just have a different spin.

"I agree that Drake and Northern Iowa should play Iowa and Iowa State every year. I just think that it should NEVER have gotten to a home-and-home situation. [OK, watch the hate mail start now....don't give out my address].

"Why would either Iowa or Iowa State want to go and play Drake and UNI at their gym? I am quite certain it is not for the guarantee!!! Play the game in the big gyms, not the small ones. You know that if Drake was at ISU on Monday it still might not be sold out, but, there would be more than 8,000 folks in attendance. And if Drake pulls off the win ON THE ROAD, it is a huge accomplishment--much more than at the Knapp Center. And, the economies of both programs benefit. And don't say it is not fair to the fans of Drake and Northern Iowa. The last time I looked at either Hilton or Carver-Hawkeye Arena, there were tickets available!....."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Most coaches at Iowa and Iowa State have welcomed the opportunity to play in Des Moines and Cedar Falls because it gives fans from outside of Iowa City and Ames chances to watch their teams compete. I get the idea Wayne Morgan isn't hot about playing at Cedar Falls -- where he and UNI coach Greg McDermott almost exchanged punches the last time Iowa State played there -- but I think it's good that Steve Alford is willing to take his Hawkeyes to Drake and UNI. Alford talks like he wouldn't mind scheduling a future game at the Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines so Hawkeye fans from central and western Iowa can see the team play. The only thing better would be to have a "Big Four" doubleheader involving Iowa, Iowa State, UNI and Drake at Wells Fargo Arena. But I'm not holding my breath until that happens].


A central Iowa woman writes:

"I think the picture of Adam Haluska and Curtis Stinson [in your recent column] shaking hands was good. I also think the media keeps the situation ripe. Fans can be very cruel sometimes, and that is unfortunate, but will always be. If Haluska wasn't happy at Iowa State, then he should be able to choose to go where he wants without people condemning him. Fans at Iowa State did the same thing to [Iowans] Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich [of Kansas] when they came to Ames. It is a person's choice to go where they want. It is their life, period. Wayne Morgan may be a good coach, but he needs to show some expression. He looks like a very unhappy person!!!!! Just my observation."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Morgan may not have shown it on the exterior, but I'm 100 percent certain he was smiling big-time inside after Iowa State's victory over Iowa].


I wrote about Pops Harrison, who coached at Iowa, and Murray Wier, one of his standout players, the other day. Gordy Scoles, the coach-turned-author from Bennettsville, S.C., who keeps track of sports goings-on in Iowa, writes:


"I just read your column, and really enjoyed it. Tom Lind was the athletic director at Columbus High School in Waterloo when I started teaching and coaching in 1967. Tom, who passed away several years ago, played at Iowa in the late '30s and early '40s and was also an assistant for Pops Harrison. I believe Tom was athletic director when Murray Wier was hired at Waterloo East High School. Your article brought back great memories of some great people. Go UNI in the Division I-AA title game next Friday!"

--Gordy Scoles

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Thanks for your comments, Gordy. I, too, hope Northern Iowa stays on a roll and wins the football championship].


Iowan-turned-Californian Mark Robinson writes:

"Hi Ron:

"You may want to curtail your Christmas shopping activities and reclaim the Maly blog from that young'n -- your grandson, Nathan.

"Apparently, the genes run true in the Maly family. The young man does a great job and, in my view, is providing you with a run for your money. Don't worry, Ron. I've got your back.

"To keep things topical [as opposed to tropical, which it ain't this evening in Kansas City on my latest business trip], isn't it always something with the Alford-coached Hawkeyes? Now we have Horner playing the role of Luke Recker with a wrecked knee.

"I swear, Alford is cursed. This isn't Alford's fault, but my goodness, Iowa can ill afford a Horner-less team for even a single game.

"Take care, Ron, and keep writing."

--Mark Robinson

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Mark, I guess it wouldn't be a Hawkeye basketball season if something negative didn't happen. It's about time for Steve Alford to go to sit on Santa's knee and ask for some good luck, which he hasn't had since he coached at Southwest Missouri. By the way, Nathan thinks Alford is a bad bench coach, but that's a topic for another day].