This past June, LMU men’s basketball hired Reggie Morris, Jr. to be the Lions’ new assistant coach. Morris’s legendary basketball career began as a player just down the street, so it means a great deal to him to be able to coach his first college basketball team in his hometown. He takes pride in his Southern California roots, stating, “It’s great to be able to stay local and be around my family and friends.”
Morris played basketball for three years at Westchester High School before joining his father’s team at Locke High School. Morris’s father, Reggie Morris, Sr., had a successful coaching career of his own, leading Manual Arts High School to the Division I state championship in 1988. Just under a decade later, both Morris Jr. and Sr. became the first father-son duo to ever win a high school basketball state championship in California’s history. Morris Jr. averaged 15 points per game that year and earned all-league honors.
Morris continued to play for his father after graduating high school, playing two years at Los Angeles Southwest College before receiving a scholarship to Howard University. As soon as Morris graduated from Howard in 2001, he began to embark on what would become a successful coaching career. He first served as an assistant under Jim Phelan at Mount Saint Mary’s University, but later earned the top spot at Leuzinger High School at the age of 22. Morris spent eight years at Leuzinger and was able to turn the program around. He even coached two future National Basketball Association (NBA) first-round draft picks: Dorell Wright and Russell Westbrook.
Morris turned Leuzinger into a conference powerhouse, as they went from being a losing team to a Southern Section Division II-AA championship team. As a result, Morris was awarded Coach of the Year in 2010. But in 2011, he left Leuzinger to be the head coach of St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey. Morris was able to turn around yet another losing program, as the Vikings went from a 4-23 record in 2010 to a 25-8 record in 2012, along with being crowned Division V state runner-ups.
Morris was once again given the task of rebuilding another program later that year, as he was hired to be the head coach of the 10-17 Redondo Union Sea Hawks. It was during Morris’s first year with the Sea Hawks that he earned his reputation as one of SoCal’s best, as he led the Sea Hawks to a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division II state championship. During his four-year tenure as Redondo Union’s head coach, Morris posted a 321-116 record to go along with multiple CIF playoff appearances.
Now the assistant coach under Mike Dunlap here at LMU, Morris will be tasked with overseeing the recruiting process and day-to-day operations of the team.
When asked about his new role, Morris said, “In order to be a good head coach, you have to be a good assistant coach.” He added that his new job will require “being able to plug in the gaps and fill in wherever is needed and to monitor the situation as a whole.”
Dunlap was quick to praise his new assistant coach, stating that Morris’s reputation, his competence and his ethics as a coach made him a no-brainer for the job. Dunlap also talked about Morris’s relationship with his players, citing his “easy delivery” and strong work ethic as the reason why players are able to absorb and embrace his vast basketball knowledge.
Morris is widely acclaimed for his ability to develop young talent and serve as a mentor to his players. And because of Morris’ track record in Southern California, LMU seeks to begin recruiting more hometown players. In his first few months as a Lion, Morris has been able to recruit Chino Hills High School star Eli Scott, as well as Long Beach Poly High School’s Zafir Williams and Redondo Union High School’s Ryse Williams. When asked about how he’s been able to develop such great talent in the past, Morris said, “There’s no substitute for hard work.”
Morris hopes to accomplish a lot here at LMU. “[I want] to make sure that [LMU] become[s] one of the better college programs in the league and to hopefully build it into a national powerhouse,” Morris said.
The Lions went 14-17 last year, including 6-12 in West Coast Conference play. Even more astonishing, the Lions haven’t had a winning record since the 2011-2012 season, and its last NCAA tournament appearance came nearly three decades ago in 1990. The Lions look poised to put together a successful season, though, and after their 30-point victory this weekend against Sonoma State University, it certainly looks as though they’re getting off to a strong start. If anybody can turn this program into a perennial powerhouse, it’s Reggie Morris, Jr., and I have no doubt that he’s once again up to the task.
This is the opinion of Evan Biancardi, a sophomore communications studies major from Merrick, New York. Tweet comments to @LoyolanSports, or email email@example.com.