Earl Morris stepped away from the coaching ranks and into retirement eight years ago.
His departure wasn't permanent.
“When I left Scott the itch [to coach] had come back,” Morris said. “This job opened up and I applied for it. I was fortunate enough to get it.”
Morris’ decision to return to coaching is one of the best moves he has ever made during a career that goes back to the early 1970s, when he worked for the Toledo YMCA and began coaching seventh- and eighth-graders at Robinson Junior High.
The 66-year-old has spent the last five years enjoying even more success than he did during a six-year stint at Scott (1998 to 2004).
Rogers (20-7) has advanced to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons and will play third-ranked Cincinnati Walnut Hills (27-1) in a Division I semifinal.
“You’ve got goals like that,” Morris said. “But nobody thinks about being in the final four two out of three years.”
Morris' career record is 191-82 (98-39 at Scott; 93-43 at Rogers).
Two years ago, he guided a team led by a starting backcourt of senior Damond Powell and sophomores Clemmye Owens and Tony Kynard to the Division II state semifinals, the first trip that deep into the tournament in school history.
Rogers then claimed the team's first City League championship last season.
Morris had six consecutive winning seasons at Scott, which won a CL title in 2001 and finished runner-up three times.
Morris credits much of his success to his coaching staff, players, parents, and volunteers involved with the team.
Owens and Kynard — along with fellow seniors Keandre Gilmer, Chris Austin, Tribune Dailey, Ashon Davis, Kurtis Jeffery, and DeVonte Pratt — represent a group of players who helped to create the winning culture.
“I can’t be anymore proud of these kids because they gave me all the effort I ever wanted,” Morris said. “It’s going to be hard next year when I walk into practice and they’re not here. They’ve give me everything.
“I’m extremely proud of this group. This group has put Rogers back on the map.”
Morris, a Richmond, Va., native, moved to Toledo in 1971 shortly after traveling a couple of years around the country and performing with legendary Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes, who had established his own basketball team called the Harlem Magicians.
He settled in Toledo with his wife, Marilyn, and began working at the YMCA, which led him to coaching
He served under legendary coaches Ben Williams (Scott) and Bart Schroeder (Macomber). He has also called on former Libbey coach Leroy Bates for coaching advice through the years.
Morris said he’s become a better coach with the experience he’s gained over time. He also thinks keeping in tune with the players and understanding how today’s youth think has helped him.
The imposing 6-foot-7 Morris isn’t as demonstrative on the bench as he was in the beginning. Wisdom and age have played a role in that.
“The kids are different today,” Morris said. “Some of the kids I coach today couldn’t play for me if I was the way I was when I first started coaching at Scott. I had to change the way I coached to this new generation of kids.
“I couldn’t be as hard as I would want. You have to adjust to the kids because they’re different. They’re more easy going and some of them you can’t go as hard on them because they’re not used to it.”
Fadil Robinson, a 6-foot-7 junior, makes it clear the Rams coach hasn’t gone new age with his coaching habits.
“Coach Earl is a very hard-working coach,” Robinson said. “He gets on us and we don't like it sometimes, but in the end, it pays off.”
It’s paid off with another trip to Columbus.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.