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A good coach is hard to find
After his first retirement, Morgan created a legacy at Denair
Dave Morgan was the legendary Denair High boys basketball coach who guided the Coyotes to the section title in 1990. - photo by Photo Contributed
One day, Dave Morgan was watching his Denair High boys basketball players hold a free-throw contest. Even in this supposedly fun activity, he became frustrated that they weren’t sinking enough shots — so much so that he barked to his players, “Gimme that thing!”
He stepped up to the foul line.
He closed his eyes.
And hit seven out of 10 attempts.
This is one story Denair teacher Craig Cumberland recalls, one of many that have been floating around since Morgan died Sept. 14. He was 89. Outsiders might think that the story illustrates a hard-to-please coach trying to show who’s boss. But insiders, people who learned from him or were around him during his coaching days, believe that was just his way of showing that he knew what he was doing.
As if his outstanding record wasn’t enough proof.
Morgan spent most of his life coaching in various places. But his time in Denair was arguably his best years. He coached the Coyotes from 1983-2000, highlighted by him directing the 1990 team to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title. A decade after that championship run, he retired ... only to come back.
In all, he put in 52 seasons and finished with an 832-425 record that ranks him among California’s winningest coaches. He also had stops in the state of Ohio, Del Mar of San Jose and Delhi, his last coaching destination. He officially retired after the 2001-02 season.
People who knew the legendary coach knew he had a passion for basketball like no other. “From the outside, you’d think he was a grouchy old man,” said Ron Cornell, the retired Denair baseball coach who was also the athletic director during Morgan’s tenure.
The Coyotes felt lucky to land Morgan. He had retired from Del Mar and didn’t know if he wanted to coach again, but he couldn’t say no to basketball when the job was offered in Denair. Morgan’s winning total is only second to Bay Area legend Mike Phelps’ 843 wins. Morgan’s other accolades include being named Coach of the Year by the California Coaches Association in 1982, and later becoming a member of the CCA’s Hall of Fame.
Cornell said Morgan was a rare kind of coach, one who knew his offense very well and wasn’t flashy. Morgan did his job, and did it well. He was considered a hard-nosed coach, but he was also the type who spent time with his players and even took the time to sit down and talk with them years after they had graduated, Cornell said.
“He didn’t have a lot of flash,” Cornell said. “He was down to the basics. He was just always under control. You didn’t have to worry about him getting technical fouls, those types of things. He was solid, straight-as-an-arrow-type of guy.”
And he was also known to hit a few free throws with his eyes closed.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.