Saturday, December 10, 2005

He May Not Be Tim Floyd Or Louis Menze Yet, But Wayne Morgan Is Doing Lots Of Things Right After Being At Least the 5th Choice At Iowa State

The more I watch Wayne Morgan, the more I think people are short-changing him.

The guy can coach.

Oh, all right, maybe he’s not in Tim Floyd’s category yet.

Or Louis Menze.

But the guy who was no better than the fifth choice at Iowa State to succeed Larry Eustachy after the 2002-2003 season is showing that he knows something about X’s and O’s, he knows how to beat teams like Iowa, Northern Iowa, Drake, Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech and Minnesota, and he sure as hell knows how to recruit.

State champions, that’s what they’re calling Morgan [pictured on the right] and his Cyclones after their 72-60 victory over Iowa inside a sold-out Hilton Coliseum that was painted a solid cardinal [please, don't say red] on a wintry December night.

Iowa State turned a 12th-ranked [overrated, for sure] Iowa team into something very ordinary. The injured Jeff Horner would have helped the Hawkeyes, but his presence wouldn’t have made any sizable difference in which team won the game.

Horner wasn’t having a very good senior season before he hurt a knee earlier in the week in a loss at Northern Iowa.

The Cyclones’ zone defense helped cause 20 turnovers by Iowa. The Hawkeyes had no answers for Curtis Stinson, Will Blalock and Jiri Hubalek.

If Hawkeye fans were looking for some help from master strategist Steve Alford and the corps of geniuses dressed as assistant coaches on his bench, they had a long, frustrating night.


When I made the rounds of tailgaters prior to the Iowa State-Iowa football game last September outside Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, I was still hearing longtime Cyclone boosters question the bench coaching of Morgan.

I mean, even after 20-13 and 19-12 records, a trip to the NIT semifinals in 2003-2004 and advancement to the second round of the NCAA's Big Dance last season, I was hearing guys who are supposedly sound thinkers still wondering if Morgan could coach.

Hopefully, associate head coach Damon Archibald -- basketball guru that he is -- isn’t getting the credit for beating Drake, UNI and Iowa now.

I’ve got nothing against Archibald, but Morgan is certainly doing something right.


I mentioned earlier how far down the list Morgan was when he was finally chosen to succeed the ousted Larry Eustachy as Iowa State’s coach on May 14, 2003.

Bruce Van De Velde, who is no longer Iowa State’s athletic director, was almost down to the equipment room manager and the ballboy when he gave the job to Morgan.

Jeff Lebo of Chattanooga, the No. 1 choice, seemed to like Iowa State when he came in for an interview. But the word is that Lebo's wife turned thumbs-down on the city of Ames [maybe there weren't enough stores in North Grand Mall for her] when she came to town, and she made the decision that ol’ Jeff would still be doing his magic in Chattanooga, not Hilton.

Dana Altman rejected overtures from Iowa State so he could sign a long-term contract at Creighton.

Ray Lopes of Fresno State told Van De Velde to forget it. [Ray Lopes for gosh sakes!]

Steve McClain of Wyoming said no, and the guy was a native Iowan!

In those days, Van De Velde was calling me to bitch about certain things I was writing about him. It could very well be that I was next on his list of prospective coaches.

I probably was having a Chinese lunch with Buck and Raff the day Van De Velde called to offer me the job.


A few people are upset that Iowa State’s fans booed Iowa’s Adam Haluska [congratulating Stinson after the game in the AP photo above] every time he touched the ball.

Haluska is the player who transferred to Iowa after one season at Iowa State.

He’s called a traitor by Cyclone fans –- and a lot of worse things.

It’s a cruel world sometimes. Haluska certainly isn’t the first player to be booed bigtime at Hilton. And, no, he won’t be the last.

Hilton Coliseum can be one of the roughest environments in the nation for a visiting basketball team.

I've been in Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke, where Coach K does his business. I was at Pauley Pavilion at UCLA when John Wooden coached and Bill Walton played. I was in old Iowa Fieldhouse countless times when Iowa had good teams and won big games. As far as I'm concerned, Hilton Coliseum -- when it's full -- can be just as intimidating as Cameron Indoor or Pauley are and Iowa Fieldhouse was.

The place didn’t become known for its “Hilton Magic” because Houdini was on the home team’s bench.

[Sorry about that, Johnny].


Famous thug-to-be Pierre Pierce was the target of plenty of boos and taunts at Hilton Coliseum when he suited up for Iowa.

It was on Jan. 22, 2004 –- not that long ago –- that I wrote the top to a column that was headlined:

After 58 Years of Watching
Collegiate Basketball, He Hears
Fans Shout, 'Rapist! Rapist! Rapist!'
At a Player--And It's Something
He could Have Done Without

The way I’ve got it figured, I saw my first collegiate basketball game nearly 58 years ago.

It was on Feb. 9, 1946 that I went with another kid my age and his dad on the old Crandic train from Cedar Rapids to Iowa Fieldhouse on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City to watch the Hawkeyes play Purdue.

Iowa was coached by somebody named Pops. Purdue was coached by somebody named Piggy.
They don’t seem to have names like that for coaches anymore.

Pops was Pops Harrison, Piggy was Piggy Lambert.

It was a heck of a game that night, and it got me hooked on college basketball forever.

Pops knew how to get the Hawkeye crowd’s emotions into the game by climbing over the canvas that separated the coaches’ and players’ benches from the floor. When Pops climbed over that canvas, you knew he was pissed about something.

Murray Wier played for Iowa then, and he was an exciting little guy who made acrobatic shots. The fans loved that, too. And the best thing about that night for a couple of 11-year-old kids and the father of one of them was that Wier’s wild and crazy shots helped Iowa win the game, 43-41.

The point of all of this is that now, for the first time after those nearly 58 years of watching collegiate basketball, I have heard fans shout "Rapist! Rapist! Rapist!" to a player while he was shooting free throws.

It happened last night in Iowa State’s 84-76 victory over Iowa at Hilton Coliseum in Ames. The target of the Cyclone fans was Iowa’s Pierre Pierce, whose legal problems have been well documented.

The fans also chanted, "No means no!" to Pierce numerous times and booed him every time he got the ball.

The public address announcer finally told fans in the last half that their behavior could result in people being ejected from the arena. However, no warnings were issued in the first half, and it would have been absolutely ridiculous anyway to try to evict all of the fans who were engaging in the "Rapist!" and "No means no!" chants.

After all, it’s pretty tough to expect 14,092 fans, minus the few who were cheering for Iowa, to leave the building without having some problems.

Pierce and Coach Steve Alford tried to indicate that the fans’ behavior didn’t cause any problems for the 6-4 sophomore. I find that hard to believe. He didn’t make a shot in the first half—going 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-1 at the free throw line.

For the game, he scored 12 points—4.9 below his average.

Call me old-fashioned but, after having nearly 24 hours to think about it, I’ve decided I like my collegiate basketball better when guys named Pops and Piggy are part of it and shouts of "Rapist!" aren’t.