If you have ever had time to look around The Cutler Event Center, you have probably noticed the Gary Morrison Coaches Corridor. While most of the time visitors just walk through on their way to their coach’s office, the gym, or weight room, most have noticed the plaque to the left of the entryway dedicated to Coach Mo.
So, who is Coach Mo?
Coach Gary Morrison is known for numerous achievements at Olivet College. Hired by Olivet in 1967, Morrison started coaching men’s basketball, cross country and tennis, as well as instructing in the physical education department. Before he retired from Olivet in 2010, Morrison served as a professor of General Education/General Studies, the men’s basketball coach from 1967-1997, tennis coach from 1967- 1968, cross country coach from 1967- 1970, men’s golf coach from 1974-2010, and the baseball coach from 1971-86.
Over his career, Morrison won 21 MIAA Conference Championships, coached men’s golf teams at eight NCAA National Championship appearances, as well as coached six NCAA All-Americans, and nine Scholar All-Americans.
With a career like that, it’s no surprise that visitors in the Olivet College Archives often ask about Coach Mo and find themselves fascinated with the career of the Olivet College Athletics Hall of Famer. With the attention Morrison rightfully receives from the Olivet, MIAA, and state communities, an interview was set up, and this is what Morrison had to say in regards to his career and time at Olivet.
Q: Several sources in the Olivet College Archives state that you are an alumnus of Kalamazoo College, where you were a three-sport athlete, in basketball, baseball, and track. What else would you include in your background in sports before coming to Olivet College?
A: I played professional baseball for a year or two in lower classifications, primarily with a farm team of the Detroit Tigers. I left Kalamazoo College as the all-time leading scorer in basketball. I was an All MIAA selection three times in basketball and two times in baseball at Kalamazoo. I am a member of my high school hall of fame, the Kalamazoo College Hall of Fame, the Olivet College Hall of Fame, and the City of Battle Creek Wall of Fame. And I am the winningest coach in Olivet College history, along with being the winningest golf coach in MIAA history. I am proud of all those achievements, but I needed help from many people along the way to make them happen.
Q: Your coaching career is always eye-catching to visitors of the Olivet College Archives. What made you decide to go into coaching?
A: I like getting up in the morning excited about what I have to do that day. I loved playing most sports. So, against the advice of my dad, who was a coach at the time, I decided that is what I wanted to do. And I have never regretted my choice. At the college level I really enjoyed coaching real student athletes that simply loved to compete and who graduated in four years.
Q: During your tenure at Olivet you coached with several other successful coaches. Specifically, you taught and coached alongside another standout Comet Coach, Jare Klein. How would you describe your relationship with Jare Klein?
A: In a word “Competitive.” The sports that the two of us coached were frankly the only ones winning championships consistently at that time at Olivet College. I respected his team’s successes and I believe he respected my team’s successes as well.
Q: Throughout your years at Olivet I am sure there are countless memories, but what is your favorite memory from your time at Olivet College?
A: The basketball team when I came to Olivet, if I remember correctly, had not had a winning season since 1934 nor a conference championship since 1914. We were the annual dregs of the MIAA. I began saying publicly that we expect to win. The rest of the league members laughed at us. I remember saying that we did not care who moved over but Olivet is moving up. The Grand Rapids Press called me brash. That year we tied for the MIAA Championship, the next year we won it outright with a 12-0 league record, and the third year we won it again. The Grand Rapids Press said something to the effect of “We Were Warned”!
That was very satisfying for my players, the Olivet campus, and the coaches.
Q: What was your favorite sport to coach at Olivet?
A: Truthfully, I liked them all. The most success came in golf with 17 championships, but basketball was satisfying with the three championships as was the one championship in baseball. Probably earning respect from the other members of the MIAA was mine and my student athletes’ favorite things. I just like winning. That is why they keep score.
Q: You have won 21 MIAA championships, coached six NCAA All-Americans, nine Scholar All-Americans, and coached in eight National Championships for Golf, establishing an extremely successful coaching career. In fact, you go down in history as the most successful golf coach in the MIAA with 17 Conference Championships in golf alone. What advice would you give to current Olivet coaches? Any advice for Olivet student-athletes
A: The secret to success is recruiting. The secret to recruiting is having an administration that allows you to be competitive with other schools with regards to financial aid, etc. Coaches cannot win without talent. If the recruiting playing field is level with other schools in your conference winning is very possible. Then it becomes hard work. I recruited capable students who possessed good character and people that had played in winning programs. You want people that step up, not disappear in the cracks. When the pressure builds, when winning the game is on the line you need student athletes that know how to win and who believe they will win.