The Forgotten Years: The History of Wayne Morgan and Iowa State Men’s Basketball (Part 1)


Last month, I was strolling through the campus of Iowa State University with my 3-year-old daughter when I stopped in front of Beardshear Hall. A cool breeze brushed across the air as the sun stood shining brightly in the clear blue sky making the building barely visible when memories of the past flash through my mind.

Just over a decade ago, I was walking this same path on the way to class when I stopped to a crowd of people standing in this very spot to a mob of over 300 other students in protest of the University’s decision to suspend head coach Larry Eustachy from his coaching duties.

Mar 2, 2013; Boise, Idaho, USA; Colorado State Rams head coach Larry Eustachy encourages his team during the second half verses Boise State Broncos at Taco Bell Arena. Boise State defeated Colorado State 78-65. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Just a week before, the Des Moines Register got wind and published photographs of Eustachy partying with University of Missouri students after a Cyclone loss in Columbia. The photos revealed damaging events, such as posing for photos with the students, holding a beer can, and getting close with the girls. An interview with the co-eds found that Eustachy was criticizing his own players during the party.

As I stood and watched the crowd gather, and local media outlets began setting up their cameras to capture the event for the mid-morning news cast, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the support for a man who ran a basketball program that had underachieved the past two seasons. The crowd was calm, but determined to make a point as it was just one of a handful of rallies held over the week-long saga. “I support Larry” could be heard around campus from the mob of students, as well as the fight song being sung in support.

“Nobody knew what was going to happen after Larry resigned,” Wayne Morgan, the next Cyclones basketball head coach, said in an interview with Clones Confidential this past summer. “There were a lot of people who were very anxious for a decision to be made and to move on, and a lot of the players were upset because of his dismissal, showing support in their coach. During the stretch of the unknown, assistant coach Bob Sundvold and I kept in contact with the players, making sure they were going to school, lifting weights, and that their head was on straight when dealing with the public and media during this time.

“I came home from work and Bruce called me over to his house to talk. I walked in, and we went down into the basement and sat down on his couch. He turned to me, reached out his hand and said, ‘I’m going to offer you the job.”

“I was told by Bruce that I was going to be able to stay with the University regardless of what happened with the new coach. And then when he asked me to interview for the position, it was a shock.  He literally came to me one day and said he liked how I’d handled myself working with the team during that two weeks and asked if I’d be interested in applying for the position. I did and went through this elaborate process. They drove me to Des Moines and met with the search committee within a hotel for a two-to-three hour interview.

“A few days later I came home from work and Bruce called me over to his house to talk. I walked in, and we went down into the basement and sat down on his couch. He turned to me, reached out his hand and said, ‘I’m going to offer you the job.'”

The hiring sat well within the locker room as the players actively expressed interest to have Morgan remain on the staff for continuity of the team. Those players who publicly threatened to transfer if Eustachy was not retained stood behind the hiring of Morgan to lead the program.

Will Blalock and Curtis Stinson

Morgan’s first order of business was to retain the current recruiting class which included two prospects from the East coast.

“Will [Blalock] and Curtis [Stinson] had both already signed in the fall,” Morgan said. “I was the assistant who recruited them and brought them to Ames, so I kept calling them and telling them that we would come out of this stronger and in a better position and to keep their heads up. Like I said, Bruce had already told me that I would be retained as an assistant so they knew that I wasn’t going anywhere. And that was big in helping them both through that time.”

Photo from Iowa State Athletics. Used with permission.

Will Blalock, out of Boston (Notre Dame Prep), was tagged as the 18th best point guard in the country.

“[After the news about Eustachy] I didn’t waiver from my commitment to Iowa State,” Blalock said in an interview with Clones Confidential. “I had a mentor who was helping me get through that situation at the time. I took a huge liking to Coach Morgan during the recruiting process, and so long as he was going to stay on with the new coaching staff, I was OK with whatever direction the program was heading.

“The A.D. at the time called me and told me that he was going to everything in his power to get a good coach and assured me that Wayne would remain on the staff. Once he said that, and we knew [Morgan] was going to be in Ames, it was no brainer to stay committed.”

“Once I was able to get up there and visit, I was sold on the idea of coming to Iowa State. It was a beautiful campus and town. Everyone that I spoke with during my visit sounded very genuine. I’d visited other schools and they were OK, but I didn’t feel the same as I’d felt after spending time in Ames.”

Blalock and Stinson, a guard out of the Bronx, NY who prepped at Winchendon in Massachusetts was a top 50 point guard known for his blue collar attitude and upper body strength.

“We’d been beating up on each other for years and now we can combine to beat up on everyone else. From there we built an immediate bond.”

“When it was OK for the coaches to contact the players, Coach Morgan was the first coach I saw,” Stinson said. “He came to a number of my games that season, and I felt comfortable committing to play for Iowa State based on that relationship.  Coach Eustachy and Morgan drove 15-16 hours to come visit me.  That dedication made me feel comfortable in making my decision and I committed that day.”

Stinson committed to Iowa State prior to passing his SAT. Once he’d gotten a qualifying score, the news of Eustachy’s firing opened the doors for other schools to try and steal him away. However, it was his relationship to Coach Morgan and other incoming players to which he had built a bond, that kept him committed.

“I had a lot of schools calling me, but Will, Reggie [George] and Damion [Staple], who made up the recruiting class that year, all felt a loyalty to Coach Morgan.”

It was that long relationship Blalock and Stinson shared that made it a smooth transition to Iowa State.

Together, Blalock and Stinson were well familiar with one another on and off the court. Over the years they’d built a friendly rivalry playing against one another in high school, AAU, and then prep school.

More from Iowa State Cyclones

“I’ve known Curtis since we were both sophomores in high school because we played against each other,” Blalock said.  “We were kind of rivals for a number of years with me playing with the BABC AAU team and him playing for the New York Ravens AAU team. Then when I went to Notre Dame Prep, he went to Winchendon Prep, which was all of about fifteen minutes away.

“We both knew we were going to Iowa State. We also both knew that we played the same position at point guard, so we figured the first to commit would get the scholarship and they wouldn’t take two point guards.  So we were competing for that as well. It wasn’t until Coach Morgan called us both and told us that we were going to be able to play together. And then our bond just grew.

“One we knew we could play with each other it was great. We’d been beating up on each other for years and now we can combine to beat up on everyone else. From there we built an immediate bond.”

“I’d known Will for a while before prep school, and when we played against one another on the court, there was a lot of trash talking between us,” Stinson said. “It was never personable because we respected each other. But we both knew in order to beat the other team, we would have to get into their head. When Will and I both committed to Iowa State, it was exciting because we both knew what we could do.”

Assembling a staff

“The first guy I knew I had to hire was Bob Sundvold,” Morgan said. “He was an assistant with me under Larry the prior year. We got along very well and I knew the players really liked him as too. He also brought a great deal of experience including many years as an assistant for Norm Stewart at Missouri. He had been around for a while and could recruit not only high school kids but also junior college kids.

Photo from Iowa State Athletics. Used with permission.

“I’d known Fred [Quartlebaum] for many years. When I was at Syracuse in 1994-95, I’d applied for a job at the University of San Francisco. During that interview process I’d gotten to know the lady who was on that search committee and in charge of compliance for the university, and she was very good friends with ‘Q’.  We started talking back then and built a strong relationship over the years. He was a great recruiter who brought in several top 10 players over the years. He was a member of [Matt] Doherty’s staff at UNC that had gotten fired the same year I got the Iowa State job in 2003-04. I contacted him and we talked and felt very confident offering him the job.

“Damon [Archibald] I’d known for many years as well.  I met Damon on the West Coast many years prior from when I was the head coach at Long Beach.  He was at Pepperdine at the time and I interviewed him to be on my staff. I ended up hiring someone else, but was very impressed with him and we kept in touch and followed his progress as an assistant from afar. At the time I was assembling my staff, I didn’t know if he’d be interested because he was doing some really good things at USC. He’d brought in some really good players and they’d just had back to back 20 win seasons and two straight NCAA tournament appearances.  Before I agreed to bring him in for an interview, I wanted to make sure he was interested because he’d always been a West Coast guy and was an assistant under legendary coach [Jerry] Tarkanian’s staff along with others. He said he was interested, we brought him in and offered him the job.”

“Full disclosure, when I came out to Ames to speak about the position, I didn’t think I was going to take the position,” Archibald said. “Once I visited the campus, saw the involvement within the community, saw the arena and the commitment to basketball, things changed.  My kids were at the age where I wanted them to grow up in a community like Ames. So I took the position.”

“Wayne is very well respected on the east coast,” Quartlebaum said. “Our relationship started during his days at Syracuse so I’d known him a long time. When the opportunity presented itself to work with him at Iowa State I looked forward to that opportunity.  I didn’t really know much about the Larry Eustachy thing the weeks prior, I just knew that I was going to work for Wayne Morgan the man and the coach.”

“Iowa State the program had tradition obviously going back to Coach Orr and his success. So I knew I was heading into a special place where they would have talent where the community cared about basketball. “

“The Forgotten Years” is a long-running series that will be continuing throughout the rest of this month and next month. Check out the next part of the piece this Saturday.