Utah State Men's Basketball Coach Stew Morrill Announces Retirement
Courtesy Utah State Athletic Media Relations
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State head men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill announced Friday that the 2014-15 season, his 17th year leading the Aggies’ program and the 40th overall in the coaching fraternity including his 29th as a head coach, will be his final one as he will retire in March bringing to an end the most successful era in Utah State basketball history.
“I have coached for 40 years, 29 as a head coach and 17 of those years have been at Utah State,” said Morrill. “I know it’s the right time to make this decision. I am looking forward to some new freedoms and bugging my wife Vicki on a daily basis.
“Many thanks to University President Stan Albrecht, Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes, all of my assistants through the years, all the young men who have played for me as their coach, and of course the wonderful boosters and fans who have supported our program.
“I am looking forward to the remainder of this season, but then I believe the Utah State basketball program will benefit by having a new ‘voice’ as its head coach.”
Utah State University Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes will immediately begin the search for USU’s next head basketball coach and will have no other announcement until a new head coach has been hired after the completion of the season.
“Stew Morrill is synonymous with Utah State Basketball and will go down in Aggie history as the greatest coach to ever walk up and down the sidelines of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum,” said Barnes. “Stew has given 100 percent in making USU basketball and so many student-athletes into the best they could be, and we're very appreciative of his 17 years of service and dedication to Utah State University.
“It is never easy when a coach and a person who has built a program to greatness retires, but I am proud to have worked with him. We will miss him and I wish him nothing but the best in the next phase of his life, whistle free.”
In 29 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Morrill has established himself as one of the most respected coaches in the country and was named one of the top 50 coaches in college basketball in July of 2014 according to ESPN.
“Coach Morrill is an iconic figure at Utah State University,” said Utah State President Stan Albrecht. “He truly is Aggie basketball. Our program is nationally known thanks to his ability to recruit and teach young men both about basketball and about life. On behalf of the University, I want to thank Stew for his contributions, not only to Aggie athletics, but to Utah State University as a whole. Generations of Aggie fans have witnessed his Spectrum magic.”
During the 2013-14 season, Morrill became the 14th active Division I head coach and the 41st Division I head coach all-time with 600 wins. Morrill now has a 611-287 (.680) overall record, including a 393-149 (.725) mark at USU, which includes a 26-10 (.722) record in conference tournaments.
Morrill, who became the Aggies’ all-time winningest coach during the 2007-08 season, is also the school record holder in career games coached, currently at 542, and ranks as the second-longest tenured head basketball coach in school history trailing only E. Lowell Romney who served as USU’s head coach for 22 seasons from 1920-41.
During his 17 years at Utah State, Morrill’s team’s have recorded an amazing 243-29 (.893) home record, including a 117-18 (.867) home mark in conference play as the Aggies have been members of the Big West, Western Athletic and Mountain West Conferences.
Morrill, who was hired as Utah State’s 17th head coach on August 7, 1998, guided the Aggie program to 14 straight seasons with at least 21 wins from 2000 to 2013 and 13 straight postseason appearances (NCAA-8, NIT-4, CIT-1) from 2000 to 2012, both of which are school records. Prior to Morrill’s run, USU had never posted more than three-straight 20-win seasons and had never participated in more than three-straight post-season appearances.
Along the way, Morrill has led Utah State to seven conference championships (2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), including four-straight in the Western Athletic Conference from 2008-11, and six conference postseason titles (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011), while posting 12 of the top 13 seasons in school history in terms of wins.
For all of his success, Morrill has been named conference coach of the year five times during his Utah State tenure, winning the Big West honor in 2000 and 2002, while being named the WAC’s Coach of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Morrill has also been nationally recognized during his time at USU as he was named the 2011 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year by CollegeInsider.com.
As Utah State’s head coach, Morrill has coached four different players who earned All-American honors five times in Tony Brown (2001), Jaycee Carroll, (2007, 2008), Gary Wilkinson (2009) and Tai Wesley (2011), while Carroll (2008), Wilkinson (2009) and Wesley (2011) were all named WAC Players of the Year. Furthermore, Carroll became the school’s all-time scoring leader with 2,522 points and set 10 school records under Morrill, the most by any player in Aggie history.
Overall, Morrill has coached 15 first-team all-league players at Utah State who have won the award a total of 21 times and 19 players who have earned various all-conference honors a total of 33 times, while 21 players have earned academic all-conference honors a total of 37 times under Morrill's leadership.
In the 93 years of Aggie basketball prior to Morrill’s appointment as head coach, Utah State had played in 12 NCAA Tournaments, won nine conference championships and just one tournament title, while five players had earned All-American honors and three players had garnered conference player of the year accolades.
In just his second season as Utah State’s head coach during the 1999-2000 season, Morrill guided the Aggies to a 28-6 record, including a perfect 16-0 mark in the Big West Conference, setting school records for overall and conference wins. During the season, USU also set the school record for consecutive wins as it won 19 straight games. Morrill, who was named the Big West Coach of the Year that season, also led USU to its first of eight NCAA Tournament appearances under his tutelage.
The following season, Morrill again led Utah State to a 28-6 record and its second-straight conference tournament championship, followed by the school’s first NCAA Tournament win in 31 years after posting a 77-68 overtime victory against Ohio State.
Morrill’s 2003-04 squad was his first of three nationally ranked teams, as that group was ranked for five weeks and climbed as high as 19th in the nation in the Associated Press poll, its first ranking in the AP poll since 1971. The 2003-04 team finished the season with a 25-4 record and went 17-1 in Big West play to set the school record for conference wins.
Utah State’s most successful run under Morrill was from 2008 to 2011 as the Aggies won four-straight WAC titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three straight years from 2009 to 2011 as Morrill was named the WAC’s Coach of the Year in each of those three seasons.
Along with winning the WAC’s regular season and tournament championship during the 2008-09 season, Morrill’s team also set the school record for victories as it finished the year with a 30-5 record and was nationally ranked for back-to-back weeks, climbing as high as No. 19 in the AP poll.
Two years later, the 2010-11 team again won the WAC’s regular season and tournament championships after posting a 30-4 record to tie the school record for wins. The 2010-11 team was also nationally ranked for the final nine weeks of the season and finished the year ranked No. 25 in the nation in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll, marking the first time since 1978 and only the eighth time in school history that an Aggie team was nationally ranked at the end of the year.
Along with having three different nationally ranked teams, Morrill also had three of the best offensive teams in the nation during his tenure at Utah State as his teams led the country in field goal percentage during the 2004-05 (.525), 2007-08 (.514) and 2008-09 (.496) seasons, while the 2007-08 team also led the nation in free throw shooting (.792).
During his illustrious career, Morrill has won 20 or more games on 18 different occasions, and has won at least 17 games 23 times. The Aggie head coach is also one of just nine active coaches to notch 18 20-win seasons. Overall, Morrill has been involved in post-season action 16 times in his career and has won seven coach of the year awards in three different conferences.
Morrill began his coaching career as an assistant at Gonzaga from 1975-78 under Adrian Buoncristani, before working as an assistant at Montana from 1979-86 under Mike Montgomery. Morrill then spent five years as Montana’s head coach from 1987-1991, leading the Grizzlies to a Big Sky Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1991 as he was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year. During his tenure at Montana, Morrill posted a 97-52 (.651) record.
Morrill then spent the next seven seasons as the head coach at Colorado State, leading the Rams to the National Invitation Tournament in 1996 and 1998. While at CSU, Morrill comprised a 121-86 (.585) ledger and those 121 wins still rank as the second-most in school history.
Morrill graduated from Gonzaga in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology after transferring from Ricks (Idaho) Junior College where he earned Junior College All-America honors. Following his collegiate career, Morrill played professionally for one season in France before beginning his coaching career.
Morrill and his wife Vicki have four children: Jesse, Allan, Nicole and Tiffany.