Morgan: We're trying to do the things we have to do to improve ourselves offensively and defensively.
Deace: Your team has had some distractions and academic issues, along with a difficult schedule. What is the mood of your team going into the second half of the season?
Morgan: We're fine and ready to go.
Morgan: Hopefully not very much. Hopefully eight guys is enough to do it. We'll see what happens in the next week or so, when we hear back on Robert's situation.
Deace: Let's go to the loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday. You have to admire the way your team came back after you getting ejected in that game.
Morgan (interrupts, laughing): Ex-communicated from the game, Steve. Your colleagues almost got thrown out, too.
Deace: I've never heard of that ever happening. You've been in the Big East, on the West Coast, and done this job coast-to-coast. Have you ever heard of a referee talking to the radio announcers during a game.
Morgan: That's a first. I've never seen that before or heard of that.
Deace: I've got to believe that the league has to say something about that.
Morgan: I've spoken to all the parties that were involved and we'll see what happens. The powers-that-be in the Big 12 are aware of what happened.
Deace: Have you ever sat there as a coach with your team playing poorly, and some announcers are just ripping your team and wanted to turn around and say something to them before?
Morgan: Actually, I've never heard that. During the games I'm usually so concentrated. I don't even even hear my assistants next to me half the time.
Deace: Do you buy into the fact that some officials just have it in for certain schools? There is a certain history with one or two officials in particular. Do you have to coach around that or is there nothing to that?
Morgan: I don't know what is to it or isn't to it. I think that referees are professional and try to do a good job. But they all are human. If they feel like they've had a negative experience or maybe somebody didn't give them the respect they deserve, those things are remembered as a human. Even if a guy is really trying to be as objective as he can within the recesses of his mind. I think that the Big 12 has pretty good officials, they all work hard, and pride themselves on being professional. But when all is said and done, we're all human beings.
Deace: There are one or two officials that are on TV a lot. It does seem that someone needs to remind them that on the night of a game no one says, ‘Hey Mom, hurry up so-and-so is refereeing a game tonight we want to get to the arena.'
Morgan: That's exactly right. What a good official does is calls the game objectively and is consistent. If he's calling a walk on this end for this particular move, then he's calling the same walk on the other end. If every time you touch a player with two hands, it's a foul on both ends. You're looking for that type of consistency. If the game is over and us as fans and coaches say that was a hell of a game and don't remember seeing them, they've done a hell of a job. For the most part, people in our league do that.
Deace: You did have to admire the job your team did in coming back against Oklahoma State.
Morgan: They are very good. I look at the way our team played in the last three games and we were there. The Missouri game slipped through our fingers, and somehow we should have been able to hold onto that a little bit better. We've played two teams in the country that are in the top-five or certainly top-10 in the country right down to the wire.
If we can keep playing at that level and maintain our confidence, I think we can go out and start winning some of these games. If we're lucky and a couple things break our way, we can get on a roll.
I'm really happy that this week was our week off, because Curtis Stinson hurt his knee. If we were playing on Wednesday or Thursday, he couldn't play. The other thing was that Jared Homan was sick. But he should be OK by Saturday. What a great break and how lucky we are that this week was our break.
Deace: You have to be encouraged about the way you've played in the last three games, and if a few things would have gone your way you could have pulled out a big win. Is it too simplified to say that if you could bottle that effort with the schedule you have the rest of the season, you could win a lot of games? Or does the caliber of the competition bring out the best of your guys?
Morgan: I think it's a little bit of both, plus other teams are playing very well. Texas A&M beat Texas really badly, and then Oklahoma goes to Texas A&M and beats them badly. Oklahoma State loses at Texas. There is a lot of stuff going. Every night in this league is just a bitch…excuse my language. You have to pack a full lunch and be ready to go. Our league is a lot stronger at the bottom than people give it credit for.
If we can improve and play at a high level and eliminate some of the mistakes that we made in those games, I think we can win the majority of our games we have left. We will expect to do that, if we can do those things and stay healthy.
Deace: Going back to the Kansas game for a second. One observation that I picked up on, and this is purely layman's analysis. In the last six minutes of the game against Kansas, I counted seven possessions on the offensive end that you guys did either not get a field goal or did not get a trip to the free-throw line. I would consider it to be because of individualistic play, or too quick of a shot. That's a game you could have won, and if you score on half of those possessions you win that game.
Morgan: Unfortunately, here is the bottom line. That's the way we play. We make those shots last year, we beat Kansas, and are geniuses. We miss those shots this year and maybe we should have taken our time. The only way to win is to win, and anything less people are second-guessing you.
You go back to 1977 with the invention of the four-corners offense. In the semifinals for the national championship, Dean Smith employs the four-corners with Phil Ford with seven minutes to go in the game. They extend the lead and win. The next day he's a genius nationwide. He pulled the ball out, they handled the ball well, and no one could get it from Phil Ford. They extended their lead and won the game.
I believe they played Marquette in the finals. With four minutes to go he pulls out. Turnovers and some other things happen. Marquette wins the game, Al McGuire starts crying, and Dean Smith's an idiot. The only way to win is to win. If you don't win, whatever you did should have been done the other way.
Deace: Would you agree that with the idea that a fourth offensive option for your team emerging, preferably a second inside presence to complement Jared Homan, could be the difference between whether or not you guys get back to the NCAA Tournament or go back to the NIT?
Morgan: I would agree with that. Some other people have to step up. I don't know if it's got to be the same person every night, or if the other guys have to take turns. Three guys can't do it by themselves.
Deace: Let's talk about the season Curtis Stinson has had. He was just flat-out brilliant against Virginia and is one of the most fun players to watch in college basketball. You have described him as having the will of a shark, and he is a predator out there on the court. But sometimes this year we have also seen him react a little more emotionally than we did a year ago. Has it been a bit of an adjustment for him to go from being the third guy last year behind Jake and Jackson, to now being every team's first defensive target?
Morgan: I don't think so much adjusting to that. Last year when they went at Jake and played him face to face, and wouldn't come off of him, it gave Curtis or Jackson the chance to kill you. When they double-teamed Jackson and tried to cut Jake, it gave Curtis a chance to kill you. Now what they're doing is double-teaming Homan every time he gets it, try to stop this kid Stinson, and if Blalock doesn't get 30 we lose. That's what they're trying to do.
Morgan: They're all getting better. Damion is starting to play better now and is feeling more comfortable. He had some personal issues that occurred earlier in the season that took away from his performance, but it was understandable. Rahshon Clark is getting better every day and hopefully he'll start to get more aggressive offensively. The first half the other day, Tasheed Carr played really well. There have been games this year with John Neal, especially against Bucknell when he hits five threes in the first half. It's just a matter of finding the guy on that particular night that can get the job done.
Deace: Assuming bad news comes down with Rob Faulkner, I think the two X-factors for this team's success are Damion Staple and Anthony Davis.
Morgan: Anthony can do a little bit of everything and has all three skills: pass, shoot, and dribble. It's just a matter of him playing at a high level of consistency in our league and against the competition we have to play against. Hopefully Damion keeps getting better on a game-to-game basis and can do things to help us. He's a great defensive player, and if he can rebound and start getting close to double figures in rebounds, as well as making the shots he has when he gets them, we'll be fine.
Deace: What is the chemistry like on your team, in terms of when the game is going on, do certain guys on your team really trust that if they give up the basketball other guys are really going to be able to make that play?
Morgan: I think so. If you watch the tapes of the passes made, they would indicate that.
Deace: What are the long-term goals now for this team?
Morgan: They are just to get better every day, and try to reach our potential.