With one more year in his contract, Dwane Morrison resigned this week as Georgia Techs basketball coach. The three campaigns before Tech begged its way into the ACC two seasons ago, Morrison's teams had a 50-31 record. Not great, not bad. But as the new kid on the block, Tech won only one game in 30 tries against the ACC bullies. Bye-bye, Coach Bless You Brother.
Upon meeting strangers or seeing friends, Dwane Morrison's first words are, "Bless you, brother." "And he means it," said his wife Pat. "Dwane loves everybody."
Love is okay, but given a choice most ACC coaches would go for a 6-foot-8 power forward who can shoot from 15 feet. Terry Holland wonders if the ACC is running off too many good coaches. Norm Sloan and Bill Foster packed it in a season ago, presumably at their option. For Morrison, the handwriting was in such tall letters that even his woebegone shooters could read it.
How kind, to call these Tech players woebegone when in fact they are sofargone as to risk arrest for impersonating ACC players. "At halftime these guys are going to ask for unlisted jersey numbers," said Dan Foster, a scribvbling colleague from Greenville, S.C.
With no starters returning from last year's 8-18 team . . . with only two starters now averaging in double figures . . . with only eight men even dressing for games . . . with a team shooting percentage of .438 (the next worst in the league is .491) . . . small wonder Tech lost all 15 games with ACC teams by an average of 25 points a game.
You may want to know how bad it has been for Tech in the ACC?
The guy who was hired to recruit players quit his job last year.
He asked to coach the women's team.
Morrison, a grandfather who has been coaching 21 years, was the coach of the year in the Metro Conference in 1977 when his Ramblin' Wreck went 18-10. That was also the year he first heard that Tech wanted in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Al McGuire says, "Coaching in the ACC is the first sign of insanity." The first thing Morrison did was check how many years he had left on his contract. Next, he did this: He screamed.
He screamed that Tech didn't belong in the ACC because it wasn't ready to compete with the established kings for the affection of little children all over the southeast part of the U.S.
He said it would take five years at least to break in.
It would take big money.
It was, he said, basketball suicide.
Georgia Tech, answering, said it didn't like the Metro's football programs because the league was small-time and while ACC football wasn't exactly the Big Ten, it was a step up for Tech in its battle with the pro Falcons for the customers' free dollars.Hearing the pained shriekings of its basketball coach, Georgia Tech said basketball wasn't all that important, anyway, and everything would be all right. Bless you, brother.
So Virginia handed Tech its hat yesterday, 76-47, certifying this Ramblin' Wreck as the worst ACC team in memory. With about a minute left, most of the 19,035 customers at Capital Centre had left to do something better, like stand in the rain. But there was Dwane Morrison on one knee in front of his players, scratching out a play with chalk on the blue floor.
"You won't believe this," he said later, "but I haven't thought one bit about what I'm gonna do now. I had two different schools want to talk to me today. But my job at Tech wasn't over yet. All I thought about was winning today."
To hear Morrison tell it, Tech can't win in the ACC because it doesn't send out calendars with the players' pictures on them. As strange as that sounds, there is truth in it.
Tech must do a much better selling job to a recruit in its three visits than Carolina does or Maryland does. Morrison knows that is impossible. That's why he wanted Tech to join in the propaganda battle for the minds of young players.
"The teams that want to win put out films put together by professionals and put out recruiting brochures," he said. "They make a campaign out of it. The other ACC teams make sure the ninth, 10th and 11th graders all know about them."
Morrison said the media blitz of films, brochures, books, calendars with pictures on them probably would cost $90,000 in a two-year start-up. He said he talked to a prospect in Florida and told him Tech was in the ACC. "And the prospect said, 'ACC? What's that?' That tells me we have to do a better job," Morrison said.
Morrison said he loved Tech, where he has worked for 14 years as assistant coach and head coach. He won't knock Tech. But he will say the Tech people learned something about ACC basketball.
"They felt the pressure of the ACC. They really felt it. They felt pressure from the alumni of other schools. Georgia Tech always had been mainly football. It was difficult for them to say that basketball may be as important as football. That's a big change. And some egoes have to be swallowed."
What will happen now at Tech is predictable, Morrison said. "Each one of you has asked for a raise," he said to a crowd of reporters."And the boss says you can take it or leave it. Then they bring in another guy, a rinky-dink not 90 percent as capable as you are. They give him everything he wants and double his salary. You can say it ain't right, but that's the way it is. That's the way us common people get raises."
A slight, blond woman heard two writers wondering what Morrion will do now.
"He'll do the only thing he ever wanted to do," she said. "He'll coach. I know, because I'm his wife, Pat."
Had this been a difficult year?
"Not in the way you think," she said. "I'm teary, but you're always teary when you make a change in your life. We're healthy. If it were death, I'd be crying."
Dwane Morrison's last words to reporters at an ACC press conference: "Have you been blessed today?"