Aggie senior-to-be Pharoah Davis has practiced basketball under five college coaches: Paul Westhead, Neil McCarthy, George Tarkanian, Carl Nash and Larry Eustachy.
He officially got No. 6 on Friday when Stew Morrill was formally announced during an afternoon press conference at the Spectrum as Utah State's new head man, leaving Colorado State to follow Eustachy in Logan.And No. 6 is kind of an old friend. Morrill made a home visit to try to recruit Davis out of high school in Palmdale, Calif., when he was 17. Davis chose George Mason over CSU and Louisiana State but liked Morrill, and so did his father, Earl. Also, Morrill's assistant coach, Tony Fuller, who may move to Logan with the boss, tried to recruit Davis for San Diego State.
"He's a great big man's coach," said Davis, who plays bigger than his 6-foot-5 height. USU has a 7-footer (Dmitri Jorssen of Belgium, already on campus) as a recruit this fall, 6-6 starter Donnie Johnson returning and freshmen Spencer Nelson (6-8) and Brad Wilden (6-5) as inside players to work with. All of the players attended the coach's press conference, and there was a team meeting immediately following.
"I'm glad they picked this kind of a coach," said Davis. "He really is family oriented. He is a great person of high character, like Eustachy (taking the Iowa State job)." Davis also likes Morrill's academic standards, which are high and in line with Eustachy's.
Morrill, who is 6-8 and played collegiately at Ricks and Gonzaga and professionally in Europe, and who has been head coach at both Montana (five seasons, 97-52) and CSU (seven seasons, 121-86), was a big hit in a packed room Friday.
The Aggies invite boosters and anyone else who's interested to their press conferences, and the Champ Room in the Spectrum overflowed, with people standing in the hallway straining to hear.
"I hope you're still clapping like that in five years," Morrill told the crowd. His contract is for five years with a $120,000 base salary augmented by incentives, auto allowances, summer camps and the like that will pay maybe a little more than he got at CSU.
A native of Provo with family in Salt Lake City and two nieces attending USU, which tried to recruit him for football out of Provo High, Morrill said he thought he knew his way around Cache Valley, especially since CSU played in the Spectrum twice in the last few years. But he nearly got lost following USU's directions on his way up from the Salt Lake airport when he came in Friday morning.
Then, the man who applied for and then removed his name for contention for the BYU job a year ago, said he was early, so he stopped where he'd been told he would stay Friday night and wanted to check in. "They said, `No, someone's canceled the reservation,' " he said.
"Vicki (his wife) says, `Are you sure you've got the job?' " Morrill said. "I was a little concerned because I resigned (at CSU) yesterday."
Morrill endeared himself to the roomful by saying that he and his brother, while growing up in Provo, had BYU season tickets and watched Aggie legend Wayne Estes score 48 there three days before his tragic death.
He said the large and active Aggie student group that attends games in the Spectrum was one reason he wanted the job. "We don't have that at CSU," he said. There, boosters are adults. At USU, students make an energetic atmosphere. "The students here are awesome," Morrill said.
"Last time I was here, they started calling me `Yogi,' " he said. And they called his 5-5 assistant Randy Rahe "Boo Boo."
"Well, Yogi is back, and Boo Boo is coming shortly," Morrill said. "We might look like cartoon characters - but they're lovable," he said, adding the coaching staff still gets laughs out of that.
Morrill said he spoke for the USU job as soon as he knew Eustachy was leaving, even though he had three years left on a reworked CSU contract, was coming off two 20-9 seasons and the president and athletic director asked him to stay.
USU's Spectrum is a better facility than Moby Gym, he said, and in seven years at CSU, he had seven different athletic directors. "Bruce," Morrill said to new USU AD Bruce Van De Velde, who hired him, "if you go anywhere, I will chase you down," he threatened.
He said he's made a habit of following coaching legends. He took over at Montana when Mike Montgomery left for Stanford, inherited CSU from Boyd Grant and now takes over Eustachy's team that is coming off the best year in school history, 25-8 with a Big West championship and NCAA berth. That chance to win a conference and make the field of 64 is another reason Morrill was interested in USU. At CSU, he had to contend regularly with Utah, New Mexico, BYU and UNLV.
Eustachy wasn't present, but Morrill thanked him anyway for leaving him a solid base and for, well, "leaving, and giving me the opportunity."
For the players, he said they're "My No. 1 priority. We have to be like a family. We have to trust each other." He said his style of game is similar to Eustachy's. "We're both very much sold on defense," he said, and they want good shots and will run when possible. The offense will differ some in that Morrill uses many sets, which he thinks makes his teams tough to defend.