"I came to here to work for Larry because I knew it was a good program, and that as soon as we had some very successful seasons that there would be opportunities for me," said Morgan, who won 91 of his 175 games for Long Beach State of the Big West Conference. "I also knew that Larry prided himself on trying to get his assistant coaches jobs, but never in my wildest dreams or imagination did I imagine I'd be standing here as Iowa State's head basketball coach. We all know now there is a God."
The hiring of Morgan brings an end to a forgettable chapter in Cyclone basketball history, as his hiring comes on the heels of Eustachy's resignation May 5th. Van De Velde launched the search for a replacement last week, only to see two coaches turn down the job and others take their name out of the running.
Morgan remained in the running after Tennessee-Chattanooga's Jeff Lebo turned down an offer, Wyoming's Steve McClain headed West no longer in the running, and Creighton's Dana Altman and Fresno State's Ray Lopes opted to remain with their respective programs.
"The search process was initiated on May 6th for a new head men's basketball coach at Iowa State, and lasted nearly seven full days," said Van De Velde. "The initial pool was comprised of nearly 30 candidates from across the country. Twenty-eight of the 30 candidates had head coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level. The list was narrowed to five finalists. Of those five, Iowa State University pursued three. One of which we have here today."
"The qualities (we were looking for) included a coach who had demonstrated character, trust and integrity; a commitment to student-athlete welfare, academic progress and NCAA rules; a proven national recruiter that demonstrated success; coaching success at the highest level as both an assistant coach and head coach; and most of all, a player's coach who could develop, teach, mentor and communicate with young men. Over the course of the last seven days, through a national search, we have found a person that personifies these characteristics."
Wednesday's hiring is a much-needed step in the right direction when it comes to retaining players off of last season's team and locking up recruits that signed letters of intent in the fall and spring.
"The players really like Wayne Morgan," said Geoffroy. "He was their first choice and they are very excited about having the opportunity to play for him. Wayne has made a commitment to this program, to the University and to me, that he will always represent Iowa State University in a positive manner and that he will be an outstanding ambassador in everything that he does. Wayne has a solid reputation to build upon – the tradition of success that we have in men's basketball and in our intercollegiate athletic program.
"Wayne has been part of Iowa State for about a year. He has shown that he has the talent, skill, energy and character to move to this new level. We see in Wayne everything that we want in a new coach for men's basketball – honesty, integrity, exemplary moral character and a true genuine concern for the welfare and success of our student-athletes."
Of ISU's returning nucleus of players, Jake Sullivan, Tim Barnes, Jackson Vroman, Clint Varley and John Neal were all on hand for the press conference. Adam Haluska, Jared Homan and Marcus Jefferson were among those not in attendance.
The players demonstrating their support for Morgan expressed optimism for the program's short- and long-term outlook.
"He was my first choice, without a doubt," said Sullivan. "He really cared about me through all this time, as a person. That meant a lot to me. I think he's going to be a great coach. He's a guy that wants to win ahead of anything. I'm glad that we have the right guy that's going to give us the best chance to win and succeed. I'm really excited.
"We're all very excited and on the same page. There was more controversy made than was actually occurring. We're together 110 percent and have been the whole time. We're behind the decision and this is the guy that we really wanted."
Vroman and Barnes, said to be academically ineligible in an ESPN.com report, feel they will be around to see ISU through its transition.
"We're not commenting on eligibility right now, but I'm confident I'll be around next season," said Vroman. "I'm going to be here this summer and will next season. (Tim Barnes and Marcus Jefferson) will both be here this summer and next year, as far as I know."
Added Barnes, "I'm pretty sure everybody's going to come back. Everybody loves Coach Morgan and enjoys this team. We just move on and get everything going. It was kind of fitting that he got the job. We know his face. He knows what our program is all about with Larry. He's a good coach, which we know from working with him in practice. It was a good decision to bring him in. I'm going to go out and play the same that I did for Larry, 110 percent."
ISU's returning senior point guard could play a vital role in keeping at least one of five recruits for 2003-04 on board. With Will Blalock, Reggie George and Curtis Stinson re-affirming their pledges, Barnes' former JUCO teammate Damian Staple has yet to make a decision. Tacoma (Wash.) Community College swing-man Justin Holt is the other.
"With a little bit of my help, I'm pretty sure we can work something out and get (Damian Staple) here," Barnes said. "I talk to him. He's still kind of disappointed. He was pretty sold on Larry and so was my coach down there. It was hard for Damian, because he originally verbally committed to Western Kentucky and the coach left. He got out of that, came here and another coach leaves. He's in a tough situation right now."
As Morgan sets out to keep the core of his team together, he preached the same message to Cyclone fans and supporters at Wednesday's press conference.
"After the difficult time that we've just gone through, we need to come together and be one Cyclone Nation," he said. "We have guys here that will kill themselves for you and do everything they can do to make you proud and to win championships. I'd like to bring everybody together in the Cyclone Nation behind them. We absolutely have the best fans in the nation. I don't think that there's any place I've ever been that is even remotely close. I want us all to come together and support this wonderful program."
Morgan will reportedly sign a deal to be ISU's head coach through the 2006-07 season this weekend. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.
"We haven't reached terms fully on the contract," Van De Velde said. "We still have the details to work out, but it will be a four-year contract."