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Date Posted: Wed, December 12 2007, 13:02:22
Author: 80sAlum
Subject: From Today's Morning News
In reply to: Duck 's message, "SMU 97, UTA Women 66" on Sat, December 08 2007, 21:19:17

Ex-HS coach Morrow finds new fires to put out at UTA

01:26 AM CST on Wednesday, December 12, 2007
By CHUCK CARLTON / The Dallas Morning News

ARLINGTON Already, Samantha Morrow has discovered college coaching includes challenges she never encountered in 14 ultrasuccessful high school seasons.

Unlike her time at Mansfield and Mansfield Summit, her players haven't come through the program instinctively knowing the system and expectations. Because of the facilities situation at UT-Arlington, each day usually brings a new practice venue.

And she never had a high school game canceled by wildfires.

"That was a first," Morrow said of the experience at the Pepperdine tournament this month.

Morrow's debut at UTA carries an interest beyond just that of a new coach. She is the women's basketball equivalent of Todd Dodge moving from high school football powerhouse Southlake Carroll to North Texas this year.

UT-Arlington women's basketball coach Samantha Morrow has discovered the college game offers a new set of challenges. Like Dodge, Morrow built a state and national high school power. She amassed 413 victories and won four consecutive Class 5A state titles from 1999 to 2002.

Morrow admits she followed Dodge's first UNT season with a rooting interest.

She notes she has one advantage the program she inherited was not in rebuilding mode. UTA is coming off a 24-9 finish and its second NCAA Tournament appearance in three seasons under Donna Capps.

This season, UTA is 3-3 after consecutive losses at Texas and SMU, while trying to adjust to Morrow's push-the-ball philosophy.

Morrow said she had a handful of serious offers to move to the college level before UTA, which allowed her to stay in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"I'm not going to move to Timbuktu and work at a mid-major," Morrow said. "I didn't want to do that. I was at the ultimate I could be at a high school. This is just a great opportunity."

Assistant coach Erin Grant, who won four state titles as a player under Morrow, said she was initially a "bit surprised" to hear Morrow was a candidate for the UTA job, but thought it might be a perfect situation.

"Yeah, she's always up for a challenge ... something new," said Grant, one of three Mansfield products on Morrow's staff. "This might be a great one for her."

Senior guard Maryann Abanobi, UTA's leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, said she was struck by Morrow's first meeting with the players.

The goal, Morrow said, was not to make the NCAA Tournament but to win a game or two once there. Asked about the talk, Morrow compared to it a young child who picks up a kitten.

"They want to hold the kitten so bad, they nearly kill it," Morrow said. "As a coaching staff, we have to make sure we don't want it so bad, we kill it for the kids. They have to show us they want it as much as we do."

Donna Capps, Morrow's friend and predecessor at UTA, empathized with her transition.

Capps had been through a similar situation, moving from Crandall High School to college head coach. To her, recruiting and doing without the support system high school provided were the most difficult parts.

She found herself asking for advice from established coaches like Marsha Sharp, Jody Conradt and Gary Blair, who were willing to help a mid-major program.

Some things, though, can only be experienced, like what happened on UTA's recent trip to California. The Mavericks had beaten host Pepperdine and were preparing for the title game against Wisconsin, a neutral-site matchup against a team from a power conference.

Then news broke of wildfires in southern California. Players could see the smoke from the team's hotel in Woodland Hills. The game was canceled as a precaution.

"Very scary," Morrow said, even though the players were far from the fires and in no danger.

The day before, the team had been sightseeing on the Pacific Coast Highway. Now all those areas were closed.

"It was like no way. How can that be?" Morrow said.

Eventually, the team managed to book a flight home, but not without some scrambling.

Capps said Morrow should get used to it.

"Being a college coach is like being in a wildfire," Capps said. "You're putting out little fires and running through the smoke, sometimes not knowing where you're going."

A look at the high school coaching careers of Todd Dodge and Samantha Morrow, both of whom made the jump to Division I-A head coach this season.
Dodge Category Morrow
13 Seasons 14
124 Wins 413
43 Losses 77
74.3 Pct. 84.3
4 State titles 4

Age: 48

Education: BS in Physical Education (Texas Wesleyan, 1981); Master's in Education (Tarleton State, 1987)

Notable: Named 2002 national coach of the year by the National Federation of State High School Associations' Coaches Association. ... Morrow's first state championship with Mansfield in 1999 capped a 38-0 season. ... Won 10 district titles in 14 seasons at Mansfield and Mansfield Summit.

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