THUNDER BAY – Scott Morrison says the pandemic has been tough on athletes and coaches, but it’s still possible to maintain some semblance of training normalcy.
Morrison, the former head coach of the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball team, and current assistant with the NBA’s Boston Celtics said self-motivation is the key, something that’s not always easy for coaches to teach.
“You have to get lucky and have kids around you or on your teams who are really driven to succeed and if you have those guys, those type of people, you can help them remotely and by sending links to video and clinics and stuff that’s online, that we do here too,” said Morrison, who joined Superior Secondary Athletics Association athletic director David Pineau as a special guest on the Red Shirt Effect, a locally produced program aimed at helping high school athletes make the most of a lost high school sports season.
The P.E.I. native said he’s often asked if NBA players, once they get rich and make it to the big time, still try to get better.
He pointed to former Celtics all-star Gordon Hayward, who signed as a free agent with Boston in 2017. The signing led to Morrison being called to Brad Stevens’ hotel room, leading the rookie assistant to think he was in trouble for something.
“I know when Tom Warden used to call me to his office at Lakehead, I knew I’d done something wrong,” he said, smiling.
It turned out to be the opposite – and a lesson from an unlikely source.
Stevens told Morrison he wanted him to fly to California to work with Hayward, a seven-year veteran coming off an all-star season with the Utah Jazz.
Morrison, still nervous in his first assignment, told Hayward he’d stay out of his way and let him practice the things he felt he needed to work on.
Hayward quickly told Morrison that wasn’t going to work.
“’Coach Stevens wouldn’t have assigned you to me if he didn’t trust you and if you couldn’t make me better. And that’s what I want you to do. I want you to make me a better player,’” Morrison recalled Hayward saying.
“’I want you to be hard on me. I want you to coach me. It’s not about what I’ve done, it’s about what you can do to make me get better.’ So that really opened my eyes that these guys are all trying to improve. It doesn’t matter what level they’ve reached, they’re always hungry for more.”
Morrison added character and attitude are huge, especially at the high school level.
“Talent’s good to have, but hard work and character, with a little bit of talent, always beats a more talented team that doesn’t have the right (character),” Morrison said, also encouraging students looking to play at higher levels of their sport not to give up hope, even though high school sports have largely been cancelled in Canada this season.
“If there’s one thing that’s always been consistent is that if you’re good enough, someone’s going to find you, so if your goal is to play in the NCAA or get a Division 1 scholarship in whatever sport that you play, just keep working, keep grinding it out, doing whatever you can to improve during this tougher time,” Morrison said.
“Trust that if you’re good enough, with social media, with the internet and how much technology we have now, someone’s going to find you.”