One of the legends of Philadelphia high school basketball, Speedy Morris, earned the 1,036th victory in his 52d and final season Sunday as St. Joseph Prep’s defeated La Salle, 59-56, in the Philadelphia Catholic League regular-season finale.
“I love him,” said La Salle coach Mike McKee, a former standout player at Roman Catholic. “When I was a youngster, my dad, who is a Roman alum, would always say, ‘I want you to play for a coach like Speedy Morris.’
“There’s Rocky. There’s the Liberty Bell. And there’s Speedy.”
Morris was head coach of the La Salle University men’s team from 1986-2001, where he led the Explorers to four NCAA tournament appearances. Morris’s 238 wins are the most in school history. His best team was the 1989–90, led by Lionel Simmons and Doug Overton, which posted a 30–2 record and finished 12th in both major polls.
He was forced to resign in 2001 after eight straight losing seasons. He was then hired by Saint Joseph’s Prep High School in Philadelphia, and has been there since.
The 77-year-old Morris, whose teams have won 367 games in 19 seasons at St. Joseph’s Prep, announced in December he was stepping down at the end of this campaign because of health reasons.
“All the fanfare has been unbelievable, overwhelming really,” Morris said. “I don’t deserve it. But it’s been great.”
Sunday’s game was played before a crowd that filled both sections of bleachers and stood two- and three-deep in the corners of the gymnasium. Players from both teams warmed up wearing commemorative T-shirts that marked the occasion, with school logos, the date and “Coach Speedy Morris” on the front and “52 Seasons — Philly Legend, One of a Kind” on the back.
Morris was honored with an extended standing ovation before the game.
Morris’ career will continue Wednesday when St. Joseph’s Prep plays at eighth-seeded Archbishop Carroll in a preliminary-round game.