Duncanville's Cathy Self-Morgan on love and basketball after receiving Gatorade award
Cathy Self-Morgan -- known as "Mimi" to her nine grandchildren -- is more popular than ever. An invitation to walk the red carpet at the ESPYS in Los Angeles on July 12 and the chance to rub elbows with stars such as LeBron James, Tom Brady and Elena Delle Donne has a way of doing that.
"The grandkids never wanted to go to my other events," Self-Morgan said. "But when they heard I was invited to the ESPYS, they said, 'We're there!'"
Self-Morgan, the girls' basketball coach at Duncanville in Texas, got the invitation because she was named the 2017 winner of the Gatorade Coaching Excellence Award this week. The award, established in 2016, honors two coaches who have made an impact on the lives of their student-athletes and whose commitment to their profession goes beyond the game. Mat Taylor, the football coach at Skyline (Sammamish, Washington), joined Self-Morgan as 2017 recipients.
"She is dedicated, selfless and a true inspiration to her team," Jeff Kearney, global head of sports marketing for Gatorade, said of Self-Morgan. "Coaches are such a vital part of a young athlete's development that to be able to recognize and celebrate some of the best is truly an honor for Gatorade."
Self-Morgan has grown quite familiar with winning awards, not to mention games. She has led Duncanville to five state titles, including the past two seasons. Between 2012 to 2014, she led Duncanville to 105 consecutive wins. Prior to that, the 61-year-old Self-Morgan won three state titles at Westlake (Austin). All told, she has more than 1,000 wins and just over 200 losses.
"It's overwhelming," Self-Morgan said of the award. "When [Gatorade representatives] called me, I was thinking they were going to honor one of my players.
"When they explained it, I was drop-mouthed. I'm grateful and humbled because there are so many other coaches -- people I look up to -- who could've been given this honor."
As a player, Self-Morgan was a 5-foot-8 forward and starred on the Longhorns' first three varsity basketball teams (1974-77). She was a co-captain as both a junior and a senior.
Earlier this week, Self-Morgan spent time with espnW.
espnW: What is it about coaching that you love?
Cathy Self-Morgan: Relationships with the kids, the connections ... especially when they come back in 10 or 15 years and they say they get it ... It usually takes about 10 years for them to get out into the real world. I love it when they come back, and they're doing well (in their careers).
espnW: Why did you choose basketball?
Self-Morgan: When I was in the fifth grade, I was tall and skinny with braces. I was a head taller than every other boy or girl. I didn't think I was pretty. I was very insecure. But in the playground, I found that the boys were picking me to be on their team to play basketball because I could rebound and get them the ball. I started to have fun with basketball. I found an identity and popularity. At some point, I said to myself, 'I can do this. I can play all day rather than sit behind a desk.'
espnW: Why have you opted to remain in high school as opposed to trying college coaching?
Self-Morgan: I became a single mother when my daughter was born, and I didn't want to leave her. I've had opportunities to coach collegiately. Lots of college coaches come to our gym, and they used to talk to me about being their assistant. But I would have been on the road so much [recruiting and traveling to games]. I just couldn't see not being with Kristen as she was growing up. I also love teaching, and to watch my kids grow from high school players to college women is very fulfilling.
espnW: What are you most proud of in your career?
Self-Morgan: Again, the relationships ... I've got one former player, Lee Butler, who played for me when I started coaching. She still visits, and she showed up this year at our state tournament.
espnW: What is the toughest thing about coaching today?
Self-Morgan: The [players] I don't succeed with, the ones who don't get it ... And the cuts I have to make when they make bad decisions off the court -- that's tough.
espnW: Are players easier to coach now than when you started?
Self-Morgan: With kids these days, you have to explain things more. Kids don't just do things because a coach says so. You need to make them understand what you're talking about, and then they buy in pretty quickly. I teach the whole picture, and then I break it down so that they get it. Our expectations each year are to win state and go undefeated. The kids buy into that, but then they have to buy into the process.
espnW: What advice do you have for a young coach just starting out?
Self-Morgan: Love your kids. If you love them, they will do anything for you. Stay patient and develop those relationships. Work hard at the fundamentals. Don't skip the details. That's what's going to get you where you want to go. Surround yourself with good assistant coaches who can cover your weaknesses, which for me is paperwork, computers and remembering everyone's name. I like having an assistant who can whisper in my ear.
espnW: Is there a coach you have studied the most?
Self-Morgan: Pat Summitt. ... Her work ethic, her sternness, her tenacity to stay after the details. ... My high school coach, Carolyn Williams, she brought out in me the competitiveness and the fierceness that all of my teams possess. There are also so many young coaches I watch here in the Metroplex ... I don't hesitate calling them [for advice].
espnW: How would you describe your coaching style?
Self-Morgan: During games, I'm calm and composed. Teams act on the court the way their coach acts. But in practice and the locker room, I can be a beast if they make me be.
espnW: How long will you coach?
Self-Morgan: My husband says I'm not going to retire. He wants me to pass 1,200 wins. When I get mad and say, 'I'm done', he says, 'What would I do then?' He keeps my scorebook and the game clock and plays the music. Last fall, I stepped down as athletic director. The superintendent wanted me to be a full-time AD, but I'm not ready for that.