Q&A With Wayne Morgan

Things are starting to take shape for new Iowa State head men's basketball coach Wayne Morgan. He's added two vibrant young coaches to a staff of Bob Sundvold and himself. His recruiting class is intact and the team's non-conference schedule is in the works. CN's Steve Deace and Bill Seals sat down with Morgan Tuesday afternoon for an update on his transition to head coach.

CN: Let's start with a few comments about the near completion of your coaching staff, as Fred Quartlebaum and Damon Archibald were recently hired.

Morgan: I'm really excited about our staff. The opportunity to keep Bob Sundvold here is key. He knows a lot about the University and knows our kids. He enables us to have continuity and consistency. He knows about a lot of things that I don't know, so that's important.

I've known Fred Quartlebaum for a long time. In 1995 I was within a whisker of accepting a job at the University of San Francisco and was going to hire him then. We've gotten to be good friends from them. He has a good national reputation. He knows all of the people I know in the East, which leaves the connections and that network viable. At the same time he's able to go national, which is good. Being at Notre Dame and North Carolina – it's been adequately demonstrated that he has that ability.

I've also known Damon Archibald a long time. He's grown up in a basketball family. His father was Len Archibald, who was the head coach at the University of Utah for a long time. (Damon) eats, sleeps and drinks basketball. He's very organized, hard working and is a good recruiter. He has very strong connections on the West Coast, where I have a lot of connections. We know a lot of the same people out there, but at the same time he's capable of being national.

I feel like Damon could send Fred to L.A. to see somebody and Fred could send Damon to New York to see somebody, and that would be a smooth transition. Bob is also capable of that. From that point of view, I think our staff covers the whole country. I think we can go anywhere and recruit anybody.

Damon knows people in Chicago very well. Fred knows people in the Midwest from his time at Notre Dame. Obviously, Bob has spent his whole life in the Midwest. In addition to that, I know some people in the Midwest. We need to make that a stronghold. We'd like to get to a point where, when we feel like there are young men in this state, like we can get them. We want to get to a point in two or three years where we can get Kansas City, Omaha, Chicago and Detroit. But in the meantime, we want to draw from the whole country.

CN: An article in the Sporting News listed Quartlebaum as one of the top recruiting assistant coaches in the country. How much will having Quartlebaum on board benefit the program in this way?

Morgan: Anytime you can have Fred Quartlebaum working for you at any school, that's a feather in your cap. He knows a lot of All-Americans and very good players, and so does Damon. If you looked at the rankings, Texas is rated number one and USC is rated two. Damon recruited all of those kids. He is in a similar position. I think they're both very good and have very bright futures. I think they'll both be head coaches.

CN: With the hiring of Quartlebaum and Archibald, you appear to have the recruiting bases covered. But what would you say about the perception that you hire a veteran coach or elder statesmen adept at Xs and Os?

Morgan: Actually I think I know a little bit about Xs and Os, so I'll probably do most of that. I think that the other guys are capable of that. We have people that, if I have to fly out and see a recruit and leave them with practice, they could handle practice. Damon ran the defensive practices at USC and Fred's done a lot of those at the places he's been. Bob's been a head coach at UMKC, so he knows how to handle kids and run practices.

A lot of people have wondered what the different responsibilities will be for the coaches. Our guys will have responsibilities, but I have basically tried to hire guys that can do everything. They can deal with parents, alumni, coach Xs and Os, do defense and break down or edit tape.

CN: With the coaching pedigrees of Quartlebaum and Archibald, are you surprised you were able to attract the likes of these two coaches?

Morgan: I was surprised at the amount of people that were available with high pedigrees, and I was even more surprised by the amount of people with high pedigrees who were willing to leave where they were to come here and work for me. I had people from the Big East, top assistants from this conference, PAC 10, WAC and five guys that were former head coaches of national notoriety that would have come here. But I'm really pleased with the guys we have.

CN: One would think that ISU's reputation, with the Larry Eustachy situation and ensuing coaching search, would have been sullied on a national scale. Why were they so receptive to coming here?

Morgan: That wasn't the case at all and coaches don't look at it that way. The situation that happened is over. We'll move forward and be as positive as we can. What happened is a part of life. Although athletics and coaches are maybe put on a pedestal sometimes, they're still a part of society and as such represent a microcosm of that society.

CN: Another recent hire of yours was to bring aboard former Cyclone great Jeff Grayer. What will his addition to for the program?

Morgan: He's a quality human being and someone that people here at Iowa State love very much. Every time I've talked to him, he seems like a great guy. I look forward to getting to know him better. All of the years he had in the NBA and coaching he had in the CBA lends itself to a great deal of knowledge and experience he can pass down to our players. That's important.

Not only can he bring that type of knowledge and experience to our players, but he gives them a link to the past and tradition of this school. I can see him sitting around here and telling some Johnny Orr stories or about some of the great games he was involved in. At the same time, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that he has to pass a lot of units to have his degree from a year from know which would make us real proud.

CN: What are the limits on Grayer's coaching position, as far as how much he'll be able to coach?

Morgan: He's hired as a graduate assistant, which means Bruce Van De Velde was gracious enough to give us that position to take care of and help Jeff. Basketball didn't have that position, but Bruce wanted to do whatever he could do to help Jeff secure his degree.

The thing is, he's not a player, and they can only go 20 hours a week. He could go 100, but his top priority will be going to class and doing the work. Around that, I'll utilize him wherever I can with the players. He'll do individual workouts, some kids that he'll help with their academics, if he's not in class or involved in his academics he'll be at practice, and he'll do some traveling.

CN: Is this a paid position?

Morgan: As a graduate assistant, we pay for his education. That money is paid to the University through the athletic department to pay for the classes he's covering. Every other thing he's got to cover for himself. As a grown man who played in the NBA for a number of years, he will have the wherewithall to support himself.

CN: When does he start work at ISU?

Morgan: He'll be here tomorrow. He may go to summer school. I've given him to the leeway to do what he has to do. He has a schedule as flexible as possible to accomplish getting a degree.

CN: When will the director of basketball operations post be filled? Could another former Cyclone great Barry Stevens be a candidate for that job?

Morgan: That will be filled. I think Barry will be a candidate for a number of different jobs and we'll see what happens.

CN: Shifting gears to some team-related topics, are you still having difficulty scheduling the Iowa State-Iowa game for this season?

Morgan: We're having a lot of difficulties. I think the game will be played. We may decide to play the game in January during both team's conference schedules, because of all the difficulties they have had on agreeing on a date three times. Hopefully that will be nailed down in a week.

CN: More about the non-conference schedule, there was some talk a few months ago that Arizona State and BYU could possibly be on the docket. Is there any truth to this?

Morgan: I think at one point they talked to BYU, but that's out. Right now we're talking to Seton Hall and Miami real heavy, and would like to nail down one of those two. Those would be home-and-home. We have also talked to UNLV and Saint John's. We're trying to get three teams that our fans can look at and think these are really good games and be excited about.

We're also trying to get in the Maui or Rainbow Classic next year, so some of our fans could go to Hawaii. The Alaska Shootout could be a possibility down the road.

So we're really trying. Right now we're having some difficulty getting people to agree. We're trying to get things done for this year and start for the '04-05 season getting a series with a big team here that would balance our deal out with Iowa.

CN: Let's get a scouting report of the four newcomers that you signed for this fall.

Morgan: I think the recruiting class is a very good one. All four guys will really help our program. The fans will really like them.

Will Blalock is a 6-foot guard who is as fast and quick as Allen Iverson and can dunk the ball any way you want him to dunk it. He will be an excellent player. He played at Notre Dame Prep and has played AAU ball for Leo Papille, who is one of the renowned AAU coaches in the country. Leo was the director of player personnel for the Celtics and has said that Will Blalock is the best guard that has played for him in AAU. Bill Barton, his prep school coach, who has coached many great players to play high Division I players has said Will's the best finisher he's ever coached.

We also signed Reggie George from that school, which is 6-foot-10 and seems to be growing. He's very long, athletic and at 6-foot-10 he has great run and jump skills. He can shoot the ball and put it on the floor. But he has to mature some more and play well enough to help us a little bit this year. With normal development and hard work, he has the opportunity to be an all-conference player one day.

Curtis Stinson will be a great player for us. He's one of the toughest players I've ever seen. He's 6-foot-3 and cut up at 205 pounds with big shoulders. He's a very tough defensive player and physically looks you in the eyes and says he's going to kick you up and down this court and there's nothing you can do about it. The look in his eyes lets you know there's nothing you can do about it. That's the greatness of him. He's Jamaal Tinsley meets Walt Frazier. Last year when they had the Las Vegas Big-Time, which is the big tournament in the summer with 316 teams, he dragged his team to the championship and was the MVP of that.

We also signed Damion Staple of Southeastern Illinois Junior College, who is about 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds. He's just cut up like somebody used a carving knife on him. His heart is a block of granite. He's a tough kid that's very determined. Obviously, you don't get to be second-team junior college All-American if you can't play. I think he'll really help us in the front court.

CN: Switching gears again, give us an idea of what the first month as head coach has been like.

Morgan: I'm just so busy doing it that I don't know if I'm doing it. I'm accepting the challenge and getting up every day and doing everything I've got to do. I'm trying to make us the best I can in every single phase. There's so much to do that you don't have time to smell the roses. The way things are going, that might not be until next year at this time. This is the time of year you're supposed to be able to take it easy, but I'm working 12 to 14 hours a day and getting a hundred phone calls a day.

CN: What's this about you staying in your same assistant coach's office and not moving into the new digs?

Morgan: I haven't moved into that office, because I'm doing too many things right now. I can't afford to be disorganized. I can't afford to be looking for this paper or this book. I can't move into that office until there comes a time when I can make a smooth transition and not have a thousand things I'm doing.

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