Tigers planting the roots

Andy Morgan’s roots are planted deep at Taft High School.

He and his wife both are both Taft graduates, as are his parents and his children, and there are a couple of grandchildren that will soon roam the halls of Lincoln City’s high school.

In 10 of the past 12 years, Morgan has been coaching basketball at Taft in some capacity but this season he will be the head man of the Tiger basketball program, with a group of assistant coaches — Brandon Hertz, Dustin Hankins and Kyle Hamlin — with which Morgan has long-standing relationships as well.

“It’s my home and I really enjoy working with the kids. I’ve worked with Danny, I coached Kyle, Brandon and I played together at Taft,” Morgan said. “So this is really a home-grown group of guys. I think it’s a great staff and I think we have a challenge in front of us.”

That challenge Morgan is turning around a Tiger program that hasn’t reached the postseason in the past five years, has won 25 fewer games than it’s lost and is coming off it’s the worst season in that five-year stretch with a 6-17 record.

There could be a number of reasons that the Tigers have only two winning seasons in five years, but for Morgan, he thinks there has been a lack of “continuity” which is something he hopes to fix in his time as the head coach.

“I’ve coached at Taft for 10 years; I’ve worked under five coaches, eight athletic directors and five principals at Taft,” he said. “I can’t stand to sit back and watch that happen. The kids have been fortunate to play for some really good coaches, in my opinion, we just haven’t had that continuity.”

The Tigers bring back two starters from last year’s team — Tyee Fisher and Eli Demello — as well as 6-foot-9 Ray Darrington, Lucas Hindman, Jordan Hall and Trenton Fisher. The team possesses the traits — size, athleticism and shooting ability — that Morgan thinks can form a good team. But as he noted after Wednesday’s Jamboree, the traits need to be able to work with one another to create a cohesive unit.

“We realize that we are starting with the roots and at the end of the season we are going to blossom,” Morgan said. “I don’t know how else to say it — we have talent on the team we just don’t know how to use it together yet.”

Morgan’s vision for his team is to play a competitive, fearless brand of basketball, where players are not punished or worried about making mistakes, while ultimately, using basketball as a vessel to teach lessons that can be applied to life.

“We want to make better men through the sport, that’s my goal or my mission: to tell the kids that I do everything to win. My wife and I will play Yahtzee to the death, but if we’ve given everything we’ve got and we come up short, we don’t lose, we learn.”


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