Jan. 18, 2012
BERKELEY, Calif. - The benefit of having assistant coach Kevin Morrison along on this trip became apparent as the Huskies were mired in Bay Bridge traffic. With nerves frayed after a lengthy snow-induced delay back home in Seattle, Morrison helped navigate the team's bus driver to Cal's campus with a local's knowledge of region.
Morrison spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Cal, establishing a reputation as a fervent recruiter and identifier of talent. The Golden Bears, meanwhile, were building a Top-25 program in the Bay Area, one capable of rivaling Stanford. But when Cal coach Joanne Boyle took a similar position at Virginia, Morrison saw an opportunity to help rebuild one of the prominent programs in the Pac-12 - Washington.
"I had a great experience working at Cal and working for Joanne. She received a terrific opportunity out East at UVA; I wanted to stay out on the West Coast," Morrison said. "When I started hearing that McGuff was taking the job, I contacted him and told him I'd be really interested. Having been in the league, I knew this program had the potential to be great."
What attracted Morrison to the UW job was a chance to work with Kevin McGuff, whom he felt was capable of turning around the Huskies after 10 highly successful years at Xavier. He noted the great academics at Washington, in addition to its location in cosmopolitan Seattle. He brings a rolodex full of California connections after years as an AAU coach in the Los Angeles area, along with extensive knowledge of the league and its players. On a personality note, Morrison's fun-loving personality and sense of humor often bring levity to the basketball offices.
It didn't take Morrison long to settle into his new home. He and his fiancée, Heather, recently welcomed their first child, Jayce Patrick. His recruiting acumen has already helped the Huskies to sign a Top-25 class for 2012-13. But don't label Morrison as strictly an ace recruiter. He frequently leads the Huskies during scout preparations, and can be found late at Alaska Airlines Arena pouring over game film. Of course, this was something McGuff and Morrison talked about when discussing the job. Morrison sought an expanded role in Seattle, one which gave him more coaching responsibility on the floor, along with managing the team's budget and recruiting needs.
"Heather and I have had a number of life changes in the last eight months, going from living in California to moving to Seattle," Morrison said. "I'm very happy to work with a coach who understands those things in your life. McGuff obviously has kids, and so does Neighbors. I can talk to them about balancing work and personal life."
That's not to say the decision was an easy one. Morrison recruited and coached a large portion of the current California roster. When the Huskies arrived at Haas Pavilion for practice on Wednesday evening, Morrison took a few moments afterward to say hello to his former athletes.
"I've developed such a great relationship with those kids," Morrison said. "All of them understood, but nevertheless when you have a bond with kids and go through battles with them, it makes it difficult."