Over his past nine years at the University of Miami, head coach Jim Morris has become synonymous with honor, pride and winning.
Since 1994, Morris has coached in 576 games for the Hurricanes, going 427-148-1 over that span for a .742 winning percentage. His teams have gone to the College World Series seven times in his career at Miami.
With the 2003 season beginning Wednesday night against FIU, Morris could face his toughest task to date at UM. After coming off his worst season as the ‘Canes head coach, Morris faces the daunting task of putting together another successful ball club, despite the fact that graduation and the major league baseball draft continue to devastate his team each year.
“Since coming to Miami I have learned to deal with losing very talented players year after year,” Morris said.
Morris has never failed to make the College World Series two seasons in a row. If the veteran coach wants to keep his streak alive, the Hurricanes will have to rebound from last year’s disappointing season.
“There are no rebuilding years at Miami,” Morris said.
The reality of another berth in the College World Series seemed unlikely for Miami in the offseason. During that time, the program was questioned in regard’s to the NCAA’s investigation against the team’s recruiting policies. Morris is confident that the off the field events will not hinder the results on the field.
“Whatever happens is going to happen and we are going to ride with it,” Morris said. “Most importantly we have to think about this year, and whatever happened in the past, it certainly was not intentional.
“This is a new year and we have a season to play. I don’t feel this will be a distraction to our team.”
Morris was also unhappy with Miami’s standing in the pre season rankings. Most polls had the ‘Canes ranked in the mid-teens, and one didn’t even include UM in the top 25.
“After ending up three outs away from the College World Series, to see us not ranked at all the following season is incredible,” Morris said. “Personally, I take offense to that and I think our kids do as well.
“Hopefully we can use that as motivation to get us going this season. We are still Miami and this program has a history of being in the mix every year.”
But two big questions remain: Does this team have what it takes to compete, and who will be the guys to get this club back to Omaha?
“As it was last year, there are a lot of question marks in the lineup,” Morris said. “A key difference between this year’s team and last year’s is that we were able to acquire some very good junior college players. These guys have two years experience and know what it takes to win.
“Tom Shannon and Adam Ricks are both from very good programs in California. Florida and California have the best baseball in the country, the weather is great, and these guys get a chance to play a lot of games a year vs. some very tough competition.”
Morris has dealt with the odds before and is ready to coach through them again.
“I can assure you our lineup on Wednesday will not be the lineup that we end the season with,” Morris said. “We are going to switch things around and mix things up until we find what works best.”
-You can reach Ryan Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org