Adam Morrison at peace with the way his career ended, his role on Gonzaga’s staff


Adam Morrison is one of the great college basketball stories of the last decade.

The son of a college coach, Morrison’s family settled in Spokane when he was in fourth grade after his father had made the decision to change careers. He grew up as a ball-boy for Gonzaga and going to the team camps, which is actually where Morrison first learned he was a diabetic. He was a star at Mead High School, and despite failing to play his way onto any top 100 lists, Morrison ended up averaging 11.4 points as a freshman. As a junior, he spent the year going head-to-head with Duke’s JJ Redick for the scoring title and the national Player of the Year awards.

He was the third pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

It’s an amazing story, but unfortunately for Morrison, that’s not what anyone will remember about his legacy.

When you look back on Morrison’s career as a basketball player, two things will stand out to the casual fan: a) the tears that poured down Morrison’s face after Gonzaga blew a 17 point lead to UCLA in the Sweet 16 in 2006, and b) the fact that he ended up being the first in a long of line high draft picks by Michael Jordan that didn’t pan out.

In simpler terms, he was a bust.

He’s now 29 years old and out of the league, but Morrison has landed on his feet. He’s now a student assistant at Gonzaga, on scholarship and taking classes while helping coach this year’s crop of Zags. And it seems like Morrison is at peace with the way his career unfolded.

“I didn’t play well enough,” Morrison told the Spokesman-Review. “They had 15 guys on guaranteed (contracts). I would have had to play out of my mind and somebody else would have had to play badly. … There was a time in the past it was really upsetting,” he said. “It was a combination of things. I didn’t play well my first year and then I had a knee injury. Then there was a new coach and I got traded to a very good team. So that part is frustrating, but at the same time I had so many life experiences, made so many friends and did so many things that other people have never had had the opportunity to do. I had a good career leading up to that and I’m settled with it.”

“I made that decision the day I got cut by Portland,” he said. “As good as I played in summer league and then I couldn’t even get a half-guarantee (contract) or a make-good (contract). I went to Europe and played well. Then I came back and had a good summer league and if I can’t make it then I’m not going to be one of those guys that beats my head against the wall. Sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror.”

It’s never easy for an athlete to make the transition to being a former athlete, but Morrison couldn’t be in a better spot.

He’s finishing his degree for free while learning what it takes to be a successful coach from one of the most successful coaches in college basketball in Mark Few.

That’s not a bad place to land.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
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Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
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When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.