LOGAN – The Utah State University graduating class of 2015 had one last chance to see Stew Morrill inside the Spectrum, but instead of seeing him lead the Aggie basketball team, the former coach was giving advice on life. Morrill, who retired in March after 17 years as USU’s head basketball coach, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Education degree and was the speaker during USU’s commencement exercises Saturday morning.
Soon after his address to the graduates began, Morrill held a musical card to the microphone that played James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
“That’s for you,” Morrill said. “You should feel good today.”
During his address, Morrill kept the audience entertained with a variety of jokes and even demonstrated his “sweep dance” which, until Saturday, had been reserved exclusively for members of his basketball team and performed only after a series of consecutive road victories. In addition to the laughter he provided, Morrill also shared wisdom he learned during his years of coaching basketball.
“I did want to share some life lessons from 40 years of coaching,” he said. “I’ve been at it a long time.”
One life lesson came from his fifth season at Utah State. He said the Aggies were playing a very good team and fans who became upset with some calls made by the referees began to throw garbage onto the basketball court. Morrill tried to take control of the situation.
“We were losing, I was frustrated,” he said. “So I grabbed the microphone and got right to the point, ‘Don’t throw stuff on the floor!’ Only I used a different s-word.”
The potential consequences of his actions left Morrill concerned, but his fears soon left. Morrill said he was given a certificate from history professor Ross Peterson for “the best public use of a four-letter word.”
“My life lesson there is stupid actions are sometimes forgiven,” Morrill said. “Learn from those actions and never forget them.”
That wasn’t the only life lesson sparked by Morrill’s use of choice words. He said after a practice during his second season in Logan he was approached by a player who had recently returned from an LDS mission. The player told Morrill he found his language “very offensive.” Morrill said he responded by telling the young player he appreciated the input and understood he was only trying to help, but he also told the player something he didn’t expect.
“At this point he was thinking he was going to change me,” Morrill said. “Instead I said, ‘I think you really only have two choices: adapt or transfer.’ That’s a life lesson, graduates. Don’t waste time on things or people you can’t change.”
Morrill also encouraged the graduates to pursue their passions and reminded them that “talent is important, but character is more important.”
“Graduates, here is my wish for you,” Morrill said before quoting a poem near the conclusion of his speech. “May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to make you human, enough hope to make you happy.”