Nearly a decade ago, former national player of the year Adam Morrison was the guy who graced the cover of every preview magazine in America.
Gonzaga was on the national radar before his arrival, but his long hair, visible passion and scoring ability gave the Bulldogs a more prominent position in college basketball’s hierarchy.
Morrison was the man.
And throughout the 2005-06 season, he was the antagonist to Duke’s J.J. Reddick, another great college player.
The final image of Morrison’s college career features the devastated wing on the floor after a come-from-behind loss to UCLA in that season’s Sweet 16.
He was the third overall pick in that summer’s draft. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 11.8 points per game as a rookie with the Charlotte Bobcats, but things went downhill from there. Injuries didn’t help.
Morrison exited the league and played overseas after a stint with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009-10, but he never found his way back.
Now, Morrison is a student assistant on Mark Few’s staff. His father was a coach, so it’s a natural transition.
What’s surprising, however, is his attitude about his pro career. He’s been ridiculed for years as a draft bust. But he doesn’t subscribe to that view.
During an interview with the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., Morrison said he’s happy with his accomplishments and excited to tutor young players in his new role:
Morrison, 29, is basically a scholarship student-athlete again, back in class with his education paid for by the university but with different duties on the court.
“A lot of people when they first heard said, ‘Why?’ ” Morrison said. “I said, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to further your education and I get a chance to coach here. I’m the lucky one. I’m getting experience in a great program. I get to come back to the university I played for. I get to stay at home. And if everything goes right, then doors open up for me.”
He's at peace with the end of his playing career:
“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.”
It was time to move on.
“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 an honest view.
It’s easy to criticize Morrison for what he didn’t achieve during his time at Gonzaga and in the NBA. He obviously didn’t live up to the hype attached to a top-three draft pick.
But he’s not moping about the things that didn’t work out. He’s moving on.
He was aided by his realistic view of his position in the NBA. He said that he simply wasn’t good enough to latch onto another squad.
He didn’t bash coaches or teammates or owners or the media or the world.
That’s rare. And refreshing.