Note: This is a formal news release and will be updated as we get more information. We will also be collecting tributes to Coach Morgan and adding those to a different blog post.
Media contact: Josh Loftin, 801-419-6891, email@example.com
High school and college basketball coach Geno Morgan, 49, died in his sleep on Thursday, July 2, 2015, while visiting family in Chicago.
Morgan coached the Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) boys basketball team since 2009, winning three state titles during that time. He also coached at Emory University, University of Alaska-Anchorage, and high schools in Fairbanks, Alaska. He was an NAIA All-American guard as a player at Alaska Pacific University.
Morgan and his wife, Lisa, celebrated their 20th anniversary in June by renewing their vows in front of their many families and friends. Morgan had two sons and a daughter, and was the oldest of three boys. His mother and youngest brother live in the Chicago area, and another brother lives in Seattle.
Wasatch Academy Head of School Joseph Loftin said Morgan made everybody around him a better person and had a rare talent for working with teenagers, especially boys.
“He was a complete human being,” Loftin said. “He exemplified everything good about humanity. His character, his compassion, and his caring for others were as strong any I’ve encountered. He set high standards of excellence for himself and others, but pushed for those standards with great humanity. He developed great players, but even more important, he developed great people. His impact on myself and everyone else goes well beyond the sport of basketball.”
Three-year starter Koby McEwen, a senior from Toronto, said Morgan had an impact on his life that is rivaled only by his father.
“He taught me basketball in a way that I never had it taught, and I started to see the game in a different way,” McEwen said. “But it went beyond basketball. He took my in like a son, and showed me that there is more to life than basketball, and how I could use the game to grow into a man and get an education.”
This past season, Morgan led the Wasatch Academy basketball team on an aggressive national schedule. They played nearly a dozen teams ranked in the top 50 nationally, and notched wins against top 50 teams St. Benedict’s (N.J.) and Bogan (Chicago). They were one of very few teams to lose to powerhouse Montverde Academy by only single digits, and even led the eventual national champions in the fourth quarter.
Morgan’s accomplishments as a coach include being named the best high school coach in Utah by the Best of State organization for six straight year. He also won the Best of State Statue in 2015 for the Sports & Recreation Category.
He came to Wasatch Academy in 2009, compiling a first-year record of 18-3 with a squad that had actually lost 18 games the prior year. In 2010, he won the school’s first-ever state basketball championship at the 1A level. In 2012 and 2013, Wasatch Academy won the 2A state titles. Overall, Morgan had a record of 128-20 during his coaching career at Wasatch Academy.
Three of Morgan’s former players have earned Div. 1 college scholarships, an uncommon feat for a 2A school in Utah. Those players include Jerryn Skeete (University of Buffalo), Geno Luzcando (Idaho State University) and Cody John (Weber State University). Multiple players on the current Wasatch Academy squad have also received offers from Div. 1 schools.
The impact of Morgan became apparent throughout the day Thursday, with coaches, players, friends and family sharing their memories through social media sites.
Bobby Porter, the head coach of Layton Christian Academy, said he first met Morgan in 2009. At that time, Morgan took the rare, and respectful, step of consulting with “an old head of the game” about building a successful program.
“Geno Morgan made Wasatch Academy one of the great powers in high school basketball. He had an infectious smile and possessed a no nonsense on the court mentality to his players and his staff,” Porter said. “Geno worked so hard to ensure his players were able to play on the next level, but not only academically. He taught them the life skills that are necessary to make it through college.”
Prior to coming to Wasatch Academy, Morgan was an assistant coach at Emory University in Atlanta. Emory Head Coach Jason Zimmerman, who Morgan worked under in the 2008-09 season, said the loss had shocked the Emory community.
“Geno was an invaluable member of the coaching staff, a tremendous person and a dear friend,” said Zimmerman. “He possessed such a positive spirit and sincerely cared about the players on the team. There is no question he played a vital role in helping laying the foundation in those early years that has helped Emory Basketball reach the success that it has achieved. We will miss him and our thoughts go out to his family and to those whose who were touched by his influence.”