Will Morris might be the head coach of Occidental’s golf teams and coordinator of community wellness now, but his path to Occidental was by no means a straight trajectory with his prior careers spanning from being a high school basketball coach, to practicing as a real estate, estate planning, probate, tax and transactional business law attorney.
“Before I went to law school, I taught in high school and was a high school basketball and football coach,” Morris said. “I just didn’t know if I wanted to teach high school the rest of my life, so I went to law school and practiced law. I loved law school, it was one of the most interesting periods of my life, but I did not like practicing as much — it was much more mundane. I liked the client contact I had when I dealt with clients, but a lot of the time I just did lots of paperwork.”
According to Morris, even as he settled into his law career, the possibility of coaching again was never far from his mind.
“Every year my best friend would call up and offer me a job to come coach with him. He was a basketball coach at the University of LaVerne,” Morris said. “And every year I’d say no. It got to the point where I was single, I had no wife, no kids, and he kept calling. I said, ‘You know what, this sounds really good. I’m at a good point in my career, I can make a change,’ so I jumped in.”
Morris said his tenure at the University of LaVerne was a success, with the basketball team ranked first in the Western region and 16 in the country in his first year as coach, the best performance in the school’s history.
“I never looked back,” Morris said.
Morris said that while he has coaching experience in a wide variety of sports — including college basketball, lacrosse, tennis and even football — golf has always been his primary passion, both as a coach and as a player.
“Golf was my first sport and I’ve played it my whole life,” Morris said. “I played very competitive golf until I was in my early 20s when I realized I was not going to be a great player or play professionally. I kind of went away from it, but I’d always keep my hand at it.”
According to Leila Moassessi (sophomore), Morris’s experience as a player has augmented his coaching style and given him valuable insights.
“He’s able to understand our struggles and understand what we’re going through. When we’re frustrated on the golf course, he has the right thing to say, which is really nice because sometimes you’ll have people that just don’t understand what you’re going through,” Moassessi said. “Because of his experience as a golfer, he’s able to empathize with us, step into our shoes and really help guide us in the right direction.”
According to Morris, his style of coaching emphasizes his players’ performance as both golfers and students.
“It’s a balancing act for them because golf takes up so much time and Occidental is a rigorous school,” Morris said. “And they balance academics with playing in the best college golf conference in the country. They have to play golf at a very high level and obviously perform in the classroom at a very high level. And it’s trying to find that right balance for them.”
But, according to Moassessi, Morris’s primary concern lies not with the players’ academics and athletics, but with their well-being and personal development.
“He’s really unique in the sense that he wants to see us grow more as a student and a person than as an athlete,” Moassessi said. “He always emphasizes, if you have a test, or you don’t feel comfortable going to a tournament because of academics, you’re more than welcome to skip and he’ll make it up somehow.”
According to Connor Wierman (junior), Morris’ empathy for his players has been both an asset to the team and a draw for new players.
“Even through the recruiting process, he communicated well, and he communicated enthusiastically, which was definitely something you didn’t see out of a lot of coaches,” Wierman said. “When you’re going through the recruiting process, the coach matters quite a bit. He was super open about his situation with his family and how he was committed to Occidental.”
Morris now lives in Pasadena with his wife, Janet, who played volleyball at the College of St. Scholastica. They have two children, Mo and Michael. For a man who has had such a wide-spanning career, according to Morris, his commitment to Occidental shows no signs of abatement.
“I’m going to be at Oxy as long as I can. It’s 10 minutes from my home, and I live in the home that I was born in,” Morris said. “I grew up in that same home and I love where I live. How do you not love this weather — especially as a golf coach. And I get to be around really good people and great mascots.”
Contact Henry Dorosin at email@example.com.