Photo by Dennis Thomas
Morrow’s first-year coach Creswell Foy has the Mustangs off to their best start since the 2004 state quarterfinalist squad.
MORROW — The team concept is not a coachspeak cliché for Morrow coach Creswell Foy.
For the Mustangs — who are off to their best start in nine years — it has become a way of life.
“When you’re playing a team sport, there isn’t ‘I.’ It’s a team,” said Foy, who is in his first year as Morrow’s coach. “You put ‘I’ aside and do what’s necessary for the team. That was our first emphasis. Getting that culture established.”
And he means it too.
When asked which players have stood out for the Mustangs so far this year, Foy quickly interrupted the question.
“Nobody,” he said, with a slight chuckle.
His tone quickly became serious once again.
“No one, whatsoever,” the coach continued. “If you ask me that question tomorrow or the next game or the next game, you’ll get the same answer.”
Even if Foy would’ve agreed to share stats or his team’s leading scorers, it still would’ve done little more than provide evidence to the cooperative vibe of his team.
“We don’t care anything about offense,” Foy said. “If we play good defense, it will generate offense. Our motto is team comes first. Nobody stands out. At any given night, all five of our guys will score double figures. And you don’t know what players are going to score double figures from night to night. Heck, I don’t know which players are going to score double figures each night.”
But what Morrow does care about is winning. And winning is what they have done. The Mustangs’ nine wins are already just three off from matching last season’s total of 12.
The last time a Morrow basketball team started off this good, according to school athletic director Greg Kirkland, it advanced into the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
That was in 2004. Too long, says Kirkland. Hence the reason for a coaching transition after last season’s team finished with a second straight 12-14 campaign.
“I knew that there was a lot of talent here,” Kirkland said. “I felt like it was time to make a change to make us become more competitive in the postseason.”
Kirkland knew of Foy’s reputation for producing winning basketball teams in Jacksonville, Fla. Kirkland, who is in just his second year as athletic director, spent time as an assistant coach in the Sunshine state as well before coming to Morrow.
That’s why when Foy’s resume came across Kirkland’s desk, Kirkland said he “was extremely excited about that.”
The results thus far: A 9-2 record, 3-1 in Region 2-AAAAAA, and a No. 6 state ranking. Morrow’s two losses have been by a combined five points to two teams (Mount Zion and Luella) with combined records of 24-8.
Surprised by the quick success? Kirkland said he isn’t.
“I would be extremely disappointed if we were where we were last year,” he said.
Said Foy: “We’re definitely not surprised. I don’t think any coach worth his salt will tell you that he’s surprised at doing well. This is what we expect to do.”
Foy believes his team focus, coupled by a positive reinforcement approach to coaching, has helped expedite the Mustangs’ success curve.
“You can’t fuss and cuss a whole lot, especially dealing with young kids,” Foy said. “Look, everybody in the gym knows when you’ve turned the ball over. So why shout? I’m more lenient on offense than defense. If you mess up on defense, then I’m all in your grill.
“Defense is our thing.”
And the numbers back that up. Morrow has surrendered just 52 points a game on defense. That’s good enough for second best in the region behind Newton.
And for all of the winning and accolades Morrow has accumulated for its upstart play, Kirkland said he has observed the most glaring examples of the Mustangs’ maturation by watching them lose.
“When I got here, I’d never seen kids who knew how to lose so graciously,” Kirkland said. “They just knew how to lose. But when you’re a competitor, it hurts to lose. I want them to hurt when they lose. Losing was kind of the way things were done around here. We don’t want to do that anymore. They need to be mad. They need to not want to talk on the bus after a loss.
“And I see that now. That’s how I know the climate is changing.”