Q&A with Wayne Morgan

In this exclusive Q&A with CN, new ISU men's basketball coach Wayne Morgan discusses the progress he's made thus far in establishing his program as well as the sudden change of plans by former player Adam Haluska this week.

CN: You've certainly hit the ground running as Iowa State's new head coach, but now you're taking to the road as a first-year head coach in Ames. How have the Cyclone Club outings gone so far?

Morgan: I went to Cedar Rapids (Wednesday night) and was in Osceola the night before. I think the people have been wonderful and enthusiastic. They've been unbelievably supportive and clearly demonstrated that they are the best fans in the country. I've really enjoyed it. Their energy has provided me with energy.

CN: Your taking over of this program hasn't been without its obstacles, though. You had been able to retain four of five recruits that signed for the 2003-04 season and it looked as if Adam Haluska would be returning as well. How shocked were you at Wednesday's news?

Morgan: Our A.D. got a call the day before and when he called me and told me he received the call from Mr. Haluska, I was a bit surprised. I guess he indicated Adam had been feeling that way for three or four months, and finally decided to follow through on those feelings.

CN: Where does this program go without Haluska?

Morgan: I think that anytime you lose a player of Adam's caliber it effects you, but at the same time I think we'll absorb the loss. The bigger loss is to lose someone that's a part of our family and someone we considered a part of our family.

CN: Getting a re-commitment from JUCO All-American Damion Staple less than a week after your hiring was huge. How did that whole situation unfold from your perspective?

Morgan: He is a very good player and we're really happy to have him. Initially, he was really upset about the situation that occurred with Coach (Larry) Eustachy. He was upset with the way his individual situation was handled. There came a time when Coach (Bob) Sundvold and I were able to regain his trust and make him comfortable. That's when he decided to change his mind and indicate he would come, because initially he was adamant he was not coming.

CN: Update us on the progress of filling out your coaching staff?

Morgan: We have had about 500 resumes and every person sending in a resume has one to three people calling in to recommend them. That's been hectic. We're paring it down and I'm hoping within two to three weeks to have a staff ready to go.

CN: You mentioned a certain long-time Division I head coach expressing interest in being a part of your staff. Any certain coaches in particular that are on your list?

Morgan: There are no names that we want to specifically mention. When we hire people, we'll specifically announce that those people were hired and people will have full access to them. It doesn't make sense to start mentioning candidates and then if that person is not hired, it's an embarrassment. I wouldn't do that.

CN: In your introductory press conference, you shared your feelings on scheduling three to four non-conference games that would challenge your team right away. Talk about the progress you're making in that regard and filling out a 2003-04 schedule.

Morgan: No particular dates have been set, but I have called some real good schools and we're negotiating with several schools right now trying to get some good teams in here. Hopefully we'll have some specific news shortly when we make a general agreement and fax contracts back and forth.

CN: Are any of the teams in that mix Minnesota, Illinois or Indiana?

Morgan: None of those three, no.

CN: Looking ahead to the remainder of the off-season, update us on any personnel issues regarding this team and players that will and won't be around this summer.

Morgan: Most of the kids that are returning to the team will be in summer school. They'll be here. Reggie George and Will Blalock will be down here taking summer courses. Damion Staple won't come in until the end of the summer. He's going home to Jamaica. Curtis Stinson won't come in until right before the school year.

CN: How is Marcus Jefferson handling the recent death of his mother?

Morgan: Personally, Marcus is going through a very tough time. He has exhibited tremendous character and strength. He has truly grown into a strong man. I went to his mom's funeral and can say it was the best funeral that I ever went to. Many people loved her very much. She'll be missed dearly. It's a huge loss for Marcus, but at the same time, as his pastor said, she was such a great person he should feel blessed for every day that he was able to share his life with her.

CN: He had dropped out of school last semester to be with his mother in Chicago. Are you confident he'll be a part of the team this season?

Morgan: He's going to summer school and originally left school because his mother was dying. If you can't have a soft place in yourself for that, you've got a problem.

CN: Can you comment any further on the status of Jackson Vroman?

Morgan: I'm not at liberty to talk about his situation, because it's in the courts. We don't want anything printed that would appear to help or hinder his case.

CN: What about the academic status of Vroman and Tim Barnes? Will they be eligible to play this season?

Morgan: With federal privacy laws, I'm not allowed to comment on that other than to say they're both in summer school.

CN: Jake Sullivan used crutches to make it to the press conference introducing you as head coach. How has he progressed from his off-season surgeries?

Morgan: He's walking on his own and left today for a week's vacation in California. He's a very hard-working, resilient kid. We feel good that he'll be able to bounce back.

CN: The desire to run more of an up-tempo style offense is something you mention your initial press conference. Defensively, do you plan to keep the program's approach similar to the way it was with Coach Eustachy, or will you refer back to your Syracuse roots and play more zone?

Morgan: I think that we'll do a lot of the stuff that the kids are use to here and try to rely on some of the same principles. We'll play a little bit more zone, but we're not going to be exclusively zone. I think we'll be more man-to-man than zone.

CN: July is a big recruiting month across the country. What approach will you take with scouting and bringing in kids for the fall signing period?

Morgan: I will be on the road in July. I'll probably be by myself for most of it, as will my assistants. I think that we'll try to evaluate a lot of the kids we're involved with in the Class of 2004. There are a lot of great players and I feel good that we'll have the opportunity to sign some good players.

CN: How might that class look, in terms of positions?

Morgan: (Laughing) I thought I needed two bigs and one small forward, but now I might need two small forwards and a big with Adam leaving and Marcus being a senior.

CN: You've started to hit the road and meet the fans across the state and are in the process of filling out your first staff in Ames. In closing, talk about the next step in your taking over as head basketball coach at ISU.

Morgan: I want to continue to go out and meet these wonderful people and tremendous fans that we have. I'd really like them to get to know me and me get to know them. Obviously, I'm meeting so many of them so quickly that it will take time before I get to know the vast majority of them by name. I think they're tremendous fans. I've been working exhaustive hours, but every time I see them I can draw energy from them.

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