Bill “Speedy” Morris, St. Joseph’s Prep head basketball coach, is truly a legend in this city. There’s no question about it. Morris has been a successful coach at every level, and because of his exploits he has been nominated to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, announced by the school this week.
John Chaney, former Temple head coach and a good friend, nominated Morris for this honor. Chaney was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2001.
“I’ve known Speedy for a long time,” Chaney said. “I remember he was at Roman (Catholic) and I was at (Simon) Gratz. The success and the kind of influence he’s had on all his youngsters is just something amazing. It’s amazing what he’s brought to this city and to basketball. We became extremely good friends when I got to Temple and he was at La Salle.”
Morris has been nothing short of sensational. He has coached 44 years at the high school and college level. He has done a tremendous job wherever he’s coached. At Roman Catholic, where he started his coaching career and spent 14 years (1968-81), Morris won six championships and still holds the best winning percentage in school history. After that, he moved to Penn Charter where he guided the team to 41 victories in two seasons (1983-84), winning the Inter-Ac League championship in his second year.
He began his college coaching career as the women’s basketball coach at La Salle (1984-86), compiling a 43-17 record in two years. The Explorers won the MAAC championship and landed a spot in the NCAA tournament with a 21-9 record.
In 1986, he became the men’s head coach at La Salle. He spent 15 seasons coaching the Explorers (1986-2001) compiling a school record 238 victories. In 1989-90, he guided La Salle to an impressive 30-2 mark and a No. 12 ranking in the Associated Press poll.
In 2001, Morris returned to coaching in the Catholic League at St. Joseph’s Prep. In 2003, he captured back-to-back Catholic League crowns, the school’s first in three decades. His 235 wins are the most in school history and the team won the school’s first PIAA district championship in 2012. Overall, his eight Catholic League titles rank him at the top of record books. Moreover, he became the all-time winningest high school coach in Philadelphia history. He has a tremendous career record 904-388 as a head coach.
Although Morris has won a lot of games and championships, that’s only part of his story. He has helped so many young people throughout his career. Adrian Moody played for him when he coached at Roman Catholic. Today, Moody is a successful attorney in Philadelphia. He has sponsored and coached teams in the Sonny Hill League.
Morris coached John Griffin, former Saint Joseph’s head basketball coach at Roman Catholic. He also coached Griffin’s sons, John Griffin and Matt Griffin at St. Joseph’s Prep.
Now, he’s coaching Miles Overton at St. Joseph’s Prep. Miles is the son of Doug Overton, who played for Morris at La Salle. He was a terrific player at Dobbins, La Salle and played 12 years in the NBA. He’s presently an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets.
Of course, he coached Lionel Simmons at La Salle where he won National Player of the Year. Simmons, an All-Public League standout at Southern, played for Claude Gross and Tee Shields in the Sonny Hill League. He was a first round draft pick of the Sacramento Kings.
Morris’ basketball legacy makes him a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. He has made a big impact on and off the court.
“Knowing what his deeds are,” Chaney said. “One of the greatest things about somebody is the testimony of his deeds. It’s something special.”
Morris is a great coach who has reached back to help so many others. That puts him in a special category.