Manny Morgan was driving back to Metaline Falls, Washington, from Hermiston, Oregon, on July 24 when he got a call from College of Idaho men’s basketball coach Colby Blaine, offering him his dream job.
The former Yotes point guard had been staying at his girlfriend’s cabin for the summer, but had to make a trip back to his home state of Oregon to renew his driver’s license. The call made for a jubilant four-hour return drive.
Morgan will return to Caldwell to serve as the Yotes’ top assistant coach, leading a program where he helped build a dynasty as a player, putting his name all over the school’s record book.
“When me and Colby started talking about opportunities for me possibly coming back, it was a dream come true,” said Morgan, who comes to the College of Idaho after three years at Western Oregon. “I always told him if I was going to continue coaching, there’s no place I’d rather be than the College of Idaho.”
He helped spark the Yotes’ recent run of success, becoming the first player to sign under former coach Scott Garson, shortly after the former UCLA assistant was hired in 2013. In four seasons, he became a fan favorite, displaying his talent on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. His 560 career assists rank second in program history, while his 212 steals rank fifth. He’s also tied with Jake Bruner, who graduated this past season, with 134 games played during his career. He was named the Cascade Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year during his senior season, in 2016-17
More important, Morgan helped lead the Yotes to three NAIA Division II Tournament appearances during his career and two Cascade Conference regular season and tournament titles.
“The one thing about Manny is he’s super consistent,” said Blaine, who joined Garson’s staff as an assistant prior to Morgan’s sophomore season. “He brought the same approach, energy and effort every day to the basketball court and to the program as a player. And I’ve already seen that in his coaching career. I knew as a player he had the foundation and characteristics to be a really good coach.”
For Morgan, coaching was a profession he had eyed while growing up. His father, Arnold, had been a high school coach, coaching Morgan at the junior varsity level while he was a freshman at Churchill High in Eugene, Oregon.
“I’ve seen the impact that he made on several kids throughout the community, watching him inspire kids and have them make life decisions that were for the better,” Morgan said. “I always wanted to do the same. Throughout my process of being a college basketball player, I ran my own camps, I did personal training and worked with a lot of kids. So I knew it was something I wanted to do moving forward, at least give it a try and see what the whole coaching world is about.”
After graduating from the College of Idaho in 2017, he attended graduate school at Western Oregon, where he earned his master’s degree in Education Technology this spring. Morgan spent the 2016-17 season as the Owls’ player development coach before spending the last two years as a graduate assistant. Western Oregon made the NCAA Division II Tournament his first two years there, advancing to the West Regional Finals in 2018.
Morgan’s return to Caldwell couldn’t have worked out better in terms of timing. After graduating this spring, he was looking for what was next. Blaine, on the other hand, had to replace all three of his assistant coaches after Trevor Stranger took a job as Boise State’s video coordinator, while Shelby Lindley and Riley Bradshaw both took jobs outside of basketball.
But Blaine was well prepared, having a list of possible assistants to contact if he needs to fill a position. Morgan was high up on that list.
“Manny and I were really close when he was a player,” Blaine said. “We met every Monday just to catch up every week for an hour. We built a really strong relationship, so even through his early coaching career, we stayed in touch the last three years. He’d give me good ideas, I’d give him good ideas. It wasn’t planned, but when the opportunity presented itself, it was a pretty easy decision on my part.”
Blaine turned to another former player, Matt Meyers, to fill another one of the open positions. Meyers played one season for the Yotes, transferring in from Palomar Community College in California for the 2018-19 and serving as a student assistant last year. James Jansen also joins the Yotes’ bench, coming to Caldwell from Simpson University.