The men and women who spend countless hours mentoring and coaching high school athletes don’t get enough acclaim, attention, or appreciation for what they do. As fans, all we see is the so-called “final product” of what they do, which is the games that we attend and watch. But for every hour and a half long game, there are many, many more hours that players and coaches spend preparing and practicing in order to put on the best “final product” they can.
This is a reminder that coaches also spend time away from practices preparing for those practices, breaking down film, addressing any situations that arise, and various other endeavors that comes with being a coach that the average person never sees. Because coaches generally are passionate about what they do, there is no question that they are always thinking about ways to improve their team and players, every single day. And they do it all for not a lot of pay and are often at the mercy of parents, players, school board members and other administrators who scrutinize and evaluate everything they do and are not always happy with the decisions made.
So our “Coaches Corner” series is an effort to spotlight area coaches as a means to show that they matter, in a huge way, on and off the court. This is our show of support for area coaches, and we invite each and every one of you to support them as well. They thrive on feeling as if their efforts are appreciated and are making a positive difference, and our support is what keeps them going.
Today we spotlight Carthage varsity boys head coach Nathan Morris, who is in his first year as a head coach after serving as an assistant for 7 years for not only the boys basketball team, but also the Carthage football squad. He takes over the head coaching position from former coach Steve Ray, who resigned after a 15 year run. Carthage returns most of their key players for this season and should make some noise in conference and district play.
Morris is from Coffeyville, Kansas where he played football, basketball, and ran track in high school all 4 years at Field Kindley Memorial High School in Coffeyville. He was a 2 year all-conference running back and all-region high jumper. After high school Morris played 2 yrs of football at Coffeyville Community College, making first team All-Conference as a fullback, and then he finished his football career as a two year starter at Pittsburg State University.
Here is our Q & A with Coach Morris.
What is your style of play and overall coaching philosophy?
“We will look to be an up-tempo, motion basketball team at our foundation. We’ve always been a group that plays extremely hard under Coach Ray and we will look to continue that.”
Have you had to change your coaching methods as time has gone by? If so, how?
“Being that I’ve only been an assistant until this year, my method of coaching is ever evolving and I’m still feeling out the ropes of being a head coach. So far, my calm demeanor and the relationship I’ve built with the individual players has served me well. They know when they are coached hard and held accountable that it’s sincere because that foundation has been built.”
What is different about the overall culture today from a coaching standpoint compared to yesteryear? Especially as it pertains to players and parents and their respective ambitions and expectations? Are players and parents easier or harder to deal with today?
“I definitely haven’t been coaching for 10-20 years but I played under coaches that started their careers in the 80s-90s. I think back to how I was coached in High School and see a shift in how that is perceived now. I expected to be coached hard and not handed any favors from the men I played for in HS and throughout college. Kids are still kids and they will never change from being just that; 14-18 year old KIDS. Along the way somewhere, expectations from parents have been skewed in some cases (not all). I can’t put a finger on whether that is due to AAU basketball or the posting of EVERY life event on social media, good or bad, or some other factor. I think the underlying themes with players, coaches, and parents still existed 10-15 years ago, it is just amplified now by Twitter and Facebook!”
What are some of your memorable teams? What stands out about them?
“The most memorable team during my time at CHS was our 2014-15 team that won our schools first District Championship in 27 years. We defeated two good teams in our Class 4 District 12 Tournament in Webb City and McDonald County before falling to a special Hillcrest team in the Sectional game. We had an amazing leader that year in Alex Derryberry who did whatever was needed for our team. We had a few Seniors step up in that tournament in Jesse Martini and Ralston Schramm that each had big moments to help move us along.”
Who have been some of your favorite players that you have coached? Why were they your favorite?
“As mentioned previously, Alex Derryberry was a special player. Our kids probably get tired of hearing his name still to this day, but the young man did everything you asked of him and more DAILY. You want your best player to never have a bad day and that was Alex; he brought a smile and energy to everything that he did!
Cole Orscheln was another great player. Cole went from an undersized, decent Freshman guard to one of the best shooters in our schools history. Cole worked on a new aspect of his game all 4 years and developed into a guard that could be a premier 3 point shooter, beat you off the bounce, and defend pretty well. I use him as an example to almost every undersized guard that comes in here at 14 years old.
Chase Johnson was another young man that needed basketball more than we needed him. The kid had so many other things going on in life outside of basketball, but kept maturing as a man and is player that I am in frequent contact with still to this day.”
What do you most enjoy about coaching? What drives you to be a coach?
“Obviously I enjoy the X’s and O’s of coaching, the practice grind, and in-game adjustments that can be made. I most enjoy the impact we can have on these young men and the relationships that we build. Winning is fun and the goal of every game/season, but I didn’t become a teacher and coach for awards.”
What are your predictions for your team this season?
“We’re in a really unique situation this year with it being my first year and having a group that lost only 1 Senior. Our guys are really excited about this season, in particular our 6 Seniors. Obviously, there will be an adjustment after taking over for an amazing coach and my mentor, Steve Ray. Luckily, I have been with these guys since they were in Junior High so we have great relationships built already. We had a really positive summer of practice and games going 11-1. Hopefully that can catapult us into the season.
This group is extremely talented and the there is no ceiling for them as long as they continue to grow as a team and as people. If they trust each other and this coaching staff, then we should be in the thick of it at the end of the season.”
Who do you think will be your top players this season? Who will break out compared to last season or seasons past?
Alex Martini – 2nd Team All COC – All District – Offered by Missouri Western and Air Force Academy – Alex will break the all-time school rebound record and is on pace to break 1,000 pts for his career. Physically, Alex had an amazing summer. He’s put on some muscle which allows him to play more aggressive and effectively. He’s got the ability to post smaller big men and stretch out taller guys on the wing.
Marcus Huntley – He is one of the quickest guards with the basketball in SWMO. He also has the ability to go on a run of 3-4 three pointers consecutively. He had a really successful summer scoring for us and playing against good AAU competition.
Taris Jackson – Taris started all 26 games last year for us as our point guard. He also made the most 3 pointers on our team and was second in FT attempts. That speaks to his skill set of being able to lead the team at the point, knock down shots, and get to the rim. Taris recently committed to Missouri Southern on a Track & Field Scholarship.
Breakout Players –
Joel Pugh – Joel will be looking for a starting spot this season and to give us another outside shooting threat.”
What are some of the tougher teams you will face in conference and district play? What makes those teams tough, in your opinion?
“We have an extremely loaded non-conference schedule that will help us prepare for what we see in the COC every year. We start the year with our home tournament that features, Nixa, Lebanon, West Plains, Joplin, Ray-Pec, Belton, Nevada, and us. After that we see Pittsburg, KS at the Webb City Shootout followed by a trip to the Rolla Holiday Tournament to face Raytown South in the first round. Before we being COC play we will meet up with Strafford and Springfield-Parkview as well.”
“Our conference is as balanced as any league in the state. In a year that we return 4 starters on our team and should be slated towards the top, everyone else in the conference returns the bulk of their rosters as well! Willard, Webb City, Republic, Ozark, Joplin, and Nixa will all be fantastic teams and it should be slugfest for the COC crown.”