Stew Morrill stunned by national COY honor

Utah State coach Stew Morrill was named the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year at the Final Four as presented by CollegeInsider.com, and the list of finalists that finished behind him in the voting included a number of prominent coaches.

A group of coaches, media members and athletic administrators collectively voted Morrill over Mike Brey, Rick Byrd, Jamie Dixon, Billy Donovan, Steve Fisher, Greg Kampe, Mike Krzyzewski, Steve Lavin, Thad Matta, Sean Miller, Matt Painter, Rick Pitino, Dave Rose, Bill Self and Roy Williams.

Morrill was so surprised to win the award that according to The Herald Journal, he hadn't planned on attending the banquet at the Final Four in Houston and instead went to Colorado to celebrate his grandson's birthday.

"They called to see if I was going to be there; I felt really bad that I wasn't going to be there, but there was a 6-year-old with a birthday party on that day and grandpa was coming, and he was counting on it," Morrill explained. "I couldn't just drop that and grab a flight."

So what did the winningest coach in Aggie basketball history do? He called and told them he was fine with the award being given to someone else who was going to be there.

"They laughed at that, and said, ‘No, we are not doing that,'" Morrill said. "Once in a while something happens that you got to feel good about. It was very nice. Somebody on that committee must have liked me."

Morrill led Utah State to a 30-4 season that tied the school record for wins, and the Aggies were dominant once again in the WAC in winning the league by a five-game margin.

The challenge now for Morrill is to see if he can coach the Aggies to a fifth straight WAC regular-season title next season and get back to the NCAA tournament. They lose six seniors, including WAC player of the year Tai Wesley and five of their top seven scorers.

But one of the trademarks of Morrill's program is the ability to somehow plug in the pieces and keep on winning. Would anyone really bet against the Aggies to take the league title again?

"My assistants are, ‘Coach, we're still going to be picked high.' Are you crazy? I can't imagine that, but we may be," Morrill told The Herald Journal. "I don't think we will be picked to win the league. ... I think it will be fun. A challenge, but lots of fun."