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Logan • One of Stew Morrill's former players, Spencer Nelson, had just finished a summertime workout for the Utah Jazz at the NBA team's practice facility.
As Nelson fired up a few shots before leaving the court, former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan threw a glance in the Utah State product's direction. Then he turned to a reporter.
Referring to Morrill, Sloan said, "That guy up there must be the best coach in America. Every kid he sends us knows how to play."
Morrill's record suggests it's a possibility. His record as a college coach is 611-287, including 393-149 in 17 years at Utah State.
This season will be his last one, however.
At a news conference on Friday afternoon, with the mood alternating between somber and festive, the 62-year-old Morrill announced he will retire when Aggies' season ends.
"Coaching is hard," said Morrill. "I've spent 29 years as a head coach and 40 years in the business. So it's OK now to go spend a little time with my grandkids."
According to Morrill, he's mulled making his retirement announcement for weeks. He insisted it was his decision, without a push from anyone connected to the school, especially athletic director Scott Barnes or president Stan Albrecht.
"I know there will be all kinds of speculation," Morrill said. "[But] this is my decision. It's just time. It's the right time. ... Nobody's mad at anyone and you're hearing that from me."
Asked about the timing of the announcement Utah State plays New Mexico on Saturday night at the Spectrum Morrill is satisfied it came at the right moment.
"This allows the university to move forward," he said. "That's important to me. And it allows my assistants, who have been unbelievable, some time to look at some things. So I thought the timing made sense."
Barnes addressed the news conference but did not talk about his upcoming search for a new coach. In a press release, however, he said the school would not comment on the search until Morrill's successor is hired.
"We've been talking for weeks about this decision," Barnes said. "When he finally decided this was the best thing to do, he also told me he has peace about it."
Barnes joked he was finally convinced Morrill was serious about retiring after David Collette's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Utah State a 62-61 victory at Boise State last week.
"When he didn't change his mind after [that]," Barnes said, "I knew it was true."
Calling Morrill "the greatest coach to ever walk the sidelines at the Spectrum," Barnes was asked to sum up Morrill's career at Utah State.
"The big fella has won big," the Aggie athletic director said. "He's won big on the court, he's won big by graduating his players and he's won big by operating his program with impeccable integrity."
Said Morrill: "That's a little bit of what I'm proud of ..."
Stopping momentarily when his voiced cracked with emotion, he added, "We ran a basketball program and are still running a basketball program the right way. I've got peace with that.
"We graduated our players at a high level and we didn't cheat. Believe it or not, that's going on a little bit around the country. And we [still] won enough games to stick around."
This spring, Morrill will be the speaker at Utah State's commencement ceremony, according to Albrecht.
Morrill called it "an unbelievable honor. ... Like the guy who gets a Christmas bonus. I probably don't deserve it, but I'm not going to give it back."
Said Albrecht: "Stew taught a lot of young men how to play basketball. He also taught a lot of young men how to live their lives."
Looking at Morrill, he said, "Loyalty. Integrity. Legacy. All of those are part of who you are."
Stew Morrill file
Birthday • July 25, 1952
Hometown • Provo
College • Ricks Junior College, Gonzaga University
Children • Jesse, Allan, Nicole, Tiffany
Career highlights • Junior college All-American at Ricks (1972). ... First-team all-conference at Gonzaga (1974). ... Played one season in France (1975). ... Assistant coach at Gonzaga (1975-78). ... Assistant coach at Montana (1979-86). ... Head coach at Montana (1987-91). ... Head coach at Colorado State (1992-98). ... Head coach at Utah State (1999-present). ... Winningest coach in Utah State history (393-149). ... Guided the Aggies to 13 straight postseason appearances (2000-13). ... Five-time conference coach of the year.