Morrison steps down as Westfield hoops coach

Rich Morrison knew that there would come a year when he no longer felt that coaching the Westfield Lady Wolverines varsity basketball team was something he was going to continue to do.

For the past 20 years, his players lucked out and he decided to come back for one more season. The 2013-14 Lady Wolverines won’t be so lucky as Morrison has decided to retire from his position as Westfield’s coach.

“It was a wonderful ride,” Morrison said. “I enjoyed every year of it. I will most of all miss, as far as the coaching aspect of it, I’ll miss all the other fine coaches in the county that I got to coach against.”

Morrison, along with his wife Lynn, felt the timing was right to step aside and let somebody new take over.

“I may have thought once I got going that I would have coached til I retired,” Morrison said. “But it seems like the right timing for us. We can go to North Carolina, we can go to Missouri, we can have Christmas without it being just basketball. And I like going to see other high school sports that I don’t coach. So I’m sure you’ll still see me in the gym a lot.”

Morrison discussed his decision with his jayvee coach and assistant coach as well, and he decided it would be best to make the announcement of his decision to retire before his team’s last game of the season.

“I don’t think anyone was anticipating that,” Morrison said. “So I did not tell them ahead of time. In that regard I feel bad, but I knew that it was going to come some year, where I was not going to continue to coach the underclassmen or do the basketball trip, so it just felt right to me to do it in that regard. I had made my decision a while in front of that and we just let everybody know the night of the (last game). There was a fair amount of emotion. Not as much from me – which I expected – but from the kids.”

With more free time, Morrison and his wife will be able to visit their daughter Jennifer – now Jennifer Bals – in Missouri or their other daughter, Bethany, in Matthews, N.C. Their schedule won’t be overwhelmed by basketball during the winter holidays.

“We’re talking about now, as a family, meeting with all of my daughters and my wife, meeting at some (NCAA) regional that is centrally located and going to watch some NCAA,” Morrison said.

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All four of the Morrisons’ daughters – Bethany, Jennifer, Stephanie and Kristin – played basketball, so the love for the game runs deep in the family and has helped bond them together. That said, the now retired coach believes at least one person will be happy he has more free time.

“She’s been really, really supportive,” Morrison said of his wife. “But I think she’ll be glad to have me around a little bit more.”

Among his fondest memories, Morrison listed the 2003 overall Section 6 Class C championship game win over Wilson, a game that saw the Lady Wolverines come from behind at halftime and win by 17. He also mentioned one very memorable Senior Night.

“The Class of 2005 – I had seven seniors and we ended up having a pretty nice season,” Morrison recalled. “But the biggest memory I have from that season … Having seven seniors, you can’t start all of them on Senior Night. And two of my starters ended up giving their starting positions up to two of the players that came off the bench. And that really is pretty remarkable. I really kind of (expressed) what I wanted to say as a coach that it’s a team effort. So that Senior Night in 2005 would be a good memory also.”

After spending two years as Westfield’s jayvee girls coach and four more as its boys’ jayvee coach, Morrison’s first varsity year in 1993-94 was one he wouldn’t forget.

“That first year we lost the Sectional championship, 62-59, to Cassadaga Valley,” Morrison said. “We missed a 3-pointer just about at the buzzer that would have tied it up. And that’s a memory too.

“There were lots and lots and lots of them,” Morrison added.

Some memories took place off the court.

In 1996, Morrison, along with then Athletic Director Henry Lynn, planned a trip for the seniors, juniors and sophomores on the team to go see the NCAA Division I women’s Final Four in Charlotte. What they thought might be a one-time trip to have his girls see how basketball was played at the next level, turned into an annual tradition as a way to say ‘Thank you’ to the seniors, as well as a way to help bring the sophomores into the varsity family.

“We just got back (Tuesday) night from Knoxville, Tennessee,” Morrison noted. “I took my kids on the last trip, the 17th trip that we took, to go see the NCAA (women’s Division I basketball tournament). We saw Creighton versus Syracuse, we saw Tennessee versus Oral Roberts, and then we watched Tennessee beat Creighton on Monday night.

“There’s some really, really great, fond memories of 17 trips with the kids,” Morrison added.

Perhaps the two of the biggest aspects of coaching revolve around teaching your players during practice and coaching them during the game. And Morrison has little doubt which he’ll miss most.

“Definitely the teaching aspect of the game,” Morrison said. “The teaching aspect and teaching life lessons that go along with the game. The kids, I will miss forever – our opportunity to share our lives together. So I would say that the coaching part of it at the game was not the primary (aspect). Although, I was often heard to say at the beginning of the season, ‘Man, I forgot how much I love doing this.'”