An Interview with Speedy Morris

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Philadelphia is a city known for its coaches. So many great ones – everyone from Charlie Manuel to Dr. Jack Ramsey – have made their mark or got their start here.

But perhaps the finest of them all, and certainly the most underrated, is William “Speedy” Morris. No matter what level of basketball, and Morris has coached at all levels of basketball, he has succeeded. And, as a result, Morris has been named to the Big Five Hall of Fame.

Philadelphia is a city known for its coaches. So many great ones – everyone from Charlie Manuel to Dr. Jack Ramsey – have made their mark or got their start here.

But perhaps the finest of them all, and certainly the most underrated, is William “Speedy” Morris. No matter what level of basketball, and Morris has coached at all levels of basketball, he has succeeded. And, as a result, Morris has been named to the Big Five Hall of Fame.

“It’s an honor. I’ve always been a Big Five guy. At one time or another, I was a fan of whoever was doing really well,” Morris said. “When I was the coach at Roman Catholic, I used to go down to the Palestra every Saturday with a few of my players to watch games.”

He’s won titles on the high school level at Roman Catholic, Penn Charter and St. Joe’s Prep. He turned around a struggling woman’s program at La Salle University, bringing the Explorers to their first NCAA tournament. For his job there, he became the first (and, thus far, only) Division One coach to move from coaching women to the men’s squad. And while serving as the men’s coach at La Salle, his teams made it to the post-season six straight years, which included four NCAA tournaments.

During his many successes, Morris was offered a chance to jump to much bigger schools elsewhere. But, he decided to stay in the city; in fact, he’s always stayed in the Manayunk/Roxborough section of town. And he’s always been willing to donate his time and effort to a variety of charities. “I’m a Manayunk guy and a Roxborough guy and I always will be,” Morris said.

If that wasn’t enough, his 1989-90 La Salle team finished the season a remarkable 30-2 and has been hailed as one of the best in Philly’s history. They were led by consensus national player-of-the-year Lionel Simmons, who was joined by an entire roster dotted with future NBA pros. His reign at La Salle eventually petered out; the school’s move to a conference filled with teams in cities like Cleveland, Chicago and Green Bay, as well as a lack of decent facilities, will do that to you. But despite the ups and downs that come with the trade, Morris still continues to lead practices, get fired up at games and teach the game of basketball. He still likes to called, and will always be called, “Coach.”

“I just enjoyed every team and every place I’ve been,” Morris said. “Anywhere I’ve been, I’ve really cherished it.”

 

Homepage photo: www.tedsilary.com 

 

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