USC’s Stan Morrison was the Pacific 10 basketball coach of the year for the 1984-85 season. But he’s out of a coaching job now.
Morrison, 46, who has been USC’s coach for the last seven seasons, announced his resignation Tuesday night at a press conference in Heritage Hall. He will remain at the school as an associate athletic director.
Sources say that Morrison was forced to resign in the wake of his team’s last-place finish and ongoing personnel problems.
But Morrison and Athletic Director Mike McGee avoided questions of this nature and preferred to say the timing was right for Morrison to move on into athletic administration.
McGee said a search committee is being formed to find a new coach. But he wouldn’t set a timetable as to when that decision would be made, because some of the candidates are coaches of teams in the NCAA tournament that begins Thursday.
There is speculation that Boyd Grant, who resigned Monday as Fresno State’s coach, or UC Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan are among prospects to succeed Morrison.
Grant, who has said he wants to stay away from coaching for a while, was unavailable for comment. Mulligan, a former USC assistant, who sought the head coaching job in the past, said he hasn’t been contacted by anyone at the school.
Mulligan, the 1986 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. coach of the year, signed a five-year contract with UC Irvine in 1984.
Morrison, attired in the same dark suit he wore when he became USC’s coach at the outset of the 1979-80 season, said he and McGee had talked a year and a half ago about the possibility of his moving into the administrative field.
“Mike and I have had conversations over the last 10 days that were much more to the point than that breakfast conversation a year and a half ago,” Morrison said. “Given the fact that Virgil Lubberden (another associate athletic director) will be retiring and there will be a restructuring in the department, and given the awkwardness of this past season, along with some perceptions that I can do nothing about, I think we both agree that this is the best time.”
Asked if the recent suspension of forward Derrick Dowell, the team’s top rebounder and second-leading scorer, influenced his decision to resign, Morrison said:
“I think that was just part of the of the whole picture. The best way to answer that is that no one player is good enough to win or lose a game by himself.”
Asked to elaborate on those perceptions that he’d said he could do nothing about, Morrison replied: “I’ve usually been candid with so many people in this room. I would dodge that question by saying I’d prefer not to comment on it. It would be fruitless.”
After praising Morrison’s contributions to the university, McGee was asked if USC’s fall from co-champions of the Pac-10 in 1984 to the cellar and the problems with Dowell had a bearing on Morrison suddenly becoming an administrator.
The athletic director said vaguely:
“When you’re looking at the number of issues that are raised like this, as opposed to last year, there is considerably more that would be part of those discussions. I would answer it in that manner.”
The feeling persists, though, that Morrison would have remained as USC’s coach if his young team had finished with better record. The Trojans were 5-13 in the Pac-10 and 11-17 overall.
Morrison said his duties will include the building of facilities and the refurbishment of others, along with his involvement in the school’s drug program.
McGee said the university is trying to upgrade its basketball facility, either by improvements in the Sports Arena or by building an on-campus arena.
The Trojans seldom draw large crowds for basketball games, with any figure over 4,000 being exceptional, except for the UCLA game.
USC had mainly a senior team last season in sharing the conference championship with Washington. Morrison then had an outstanding recruiting year, bringing in highly regarded Tom Lewis of Mater Dei High School, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers of Dobbins Tech in Philadelphia and Rich Grande of Glendale High.
But the chemistry of this season’s team was never right. Morrison said the team worked hard but was out of sync.
It is believed that some of the veteran players, notably Dowell, resented the playing time afforded the four freshmen. Lewis, Kimble and Gathers were starters.
Lewis, a 6-foot 7-inch forward who had led Mater Dei to the Southern Section championship two of his three seasons, said there was turmoil on the team before USC played UCLA on Jan. 29.
He also said some players were given preferential treatment by Morrison. It’s believed he was referring to Dowell.
Lewis later recanted his statement, saying that Morrison explained to him why some players were treated differently from others.
In any event, USC, 3-4 in the Pac-10 at the time, lost six straight conference games before beating the Bruins on Feb. 22 in a rematch, 79-64.
USC then lost to Cal, 65-63, on Feb. 24 in a game in which Dowell told an assistant coach that he didn’t want to start the second half because he was in foul trouble. Morrison kept Dowell on the bench and suspended him two days later.
There was a possibility of Dowell’s reinstatement, but Morrison said that Dowell didn’t fulfill certain commitments that would have returned him to the team.
The Trojans then lost to Stanford and Oregon before winding up their dismal season on a winning note by beating Oregon State, 66-60, last Saturday at Corvallis, Ore. It was USC’s first conference road victory of the season after eight losses.
Morrison told his team at a 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday that he was no longer the coach. Some of the freshmen were upset, and there was speculation that some of them may transfer if they aren’t satisfied they’ll be compatible with the new coach.
Morrison, who succeeded Bob Boyd, coached USC into the NCAA tournament twice--in 1981-82 and again last season. But his other USC teams didn’t finish higher than fourth in the conference.
Morrison has had previous personnel problems. In his first season, he dropped Leonel Marquetti from the team, and Purvis Miller, a star forward, got the same treatment midway through the 1980-81 season.
The USC coach also lost two players in the 1982-83 season when Ken Johnson and Gerry Wright quit the team and transferred to other schools.
MORRISON’S COACHING RECORD
Overall Conference School Year W L W L Finish Pacific 1972-73 14 12 6 6 4th Pacific 1973-74 14 12 4 8 5th Pacific 1974-75 12 14 3 7 7th Pacific 1975-76 14 14 4 6 5th Pacific 1976-77 11 14 5 7 5th Pacific 1977-78 17 10 9 5 3rd Pacific 1978-79 18 12 11 3 1st Totals 7 years 100 88 42 42 USC 1979-80 12 15 5 13 7th USC 1980-81 14 13 9 9 4th USC 1981-82 19 9 13 5 3rd USC 1982-83 17 11 11 7 5th USC 1983-84 11 20 6 12 8th USC 1984-85 19 10 13 5 1st USC 1985-86 11 17 5 13 10th Totals 7 years 103 95 62 64 Career 14 years 203 183 104 106