Occidental women’s tennis head coach and men’s basketball associate head coach Will Morris has gone from being at court to on the court, leaving his lawyering days behind to follow his passion for coaching. His love for sports and his children manifest in his committed yet fun-loving coaching style.
“He speaks [Occidental’s] language,” Director of Athletics Jamie Hoffman said via email. “He understands the value of treating college athletics like a family.”
After practicing law for six years in real estate, probate, estate planning and business, Morris decided to pursue his passion for sports.
Morris began coaching basketball at Occidental in 2012, started coaching women’s tennis this season and also currently serves as the coordinator of community wellness through which he organizes physical fitness classes for students, faculty and staff.
This year marks Morris’s first time coaching tennis. According to him, its similarities to coaching basketball outnumber its differences. Not only do they require him to promote Occidental and identify student athletes who fit the college through the recruitment process, they are both made more enjoyable and successful by strong team bonds.
“Although [tennis] is really an individual sport, there’s a team aspect in that you’re playing with all of these other wonderful women,” Morris said. “I want them to think that it’s not one player against the woman from Chapman or La Verne or Claremont, it’s all of us. It’s the other players, the entire program, the coaching staff.”
His passion for the familial aspect of sports drove Morris to pursue a career in coaching.
“I’ve tried to follow my passion and put it in with the values of my family,” Morris said. “My family’s involved, my kids come to our basketball games, they sit on the bench sometimes. I mean, I can’t possibly put a dollar amount on the fact that my kid’s next to me on a college basketball bench.”
Morris views both law and athletics as competitive. However, while he finds stress in the seriousness of the legal process, he enjoys the light-hearted competition involved in sports.
“I view athletics as competitive, but it is really kind of fun,” Morris said. “When you’re involved in litigation, there’s real stakes. Somebody might go to jail, somebody might get millions of dollars.”
Morris’ love for sports developed at a young age. Growing up, Morris played basketball, tennis, golf and football. He competed in tennis and football during high school.
“I was the kid that came to school hours early and played on the court and played on the court and played on the court,” Morris said. “And I wasn’t very good. I just loved the sport.”
A former Division III golfer at Oberlin College in Ohio, Morris has turned down offers to coach basketball at the Division I level.
“I like the idea that in Division III you can have a great experience in athletics but not give up the academic experience,” Morris said.
Morris uses sports as a tool to teach lessons that apply off the court.
“Most people don’t play college sports. Very few people play professional sports,” Morris said. “One of the things I look at is how do you use sports as an instrument? It’s educational, it’s healthy and it’s fun.”
Morris’ positive coaching style motivates his athletes to not only work hard, but to also enjoy their experience.
“He is definitely a different kind of coach,” women’s tennis player Isabella Korfmann (sophomore) said. “He makes me want to come to practice and not be afraid if I’m having a bad day.”
Before coming to Occidental, Morris was the men’s basketball associate head coach at University of La Verne. The Leopards were nationally ranked during each of his three years at the institution and its 1992-93 team ranked first in the Western Region, won the SCIAC championship and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Morris assisted the men’s basketball team at California State University, East Bay to a co-championship the Division II Northern California Athletic Conference. He is also the winningest coach in Whittier College women’s basketball history, where he coached from 1998 to 2008.
Although he has had his share at other institutions, he values his time at Occidental due to the type of student-athletes he has the opportunity to coach.
“Every school is different,” Morris said. “I have never met as nice a group of students in my entire life as at Occidental. I’m sensitive to people having good manners and treating people well, and I’m very proud of Occidental students.”