Jane Morris would prefer heading upstate to coach her Cardinal Spellman girls’ basketball team, but she earned a trip there for the next best thing.
Morris was inducted in the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Glens Falls Civic Center on March 21. She had not thought about the honor much until her Pilots team fell to Nazareth in the CHSAA Class A semifinals a week earlier. The outpouring of appreciation when she arrived in Glens Falls quickly washed away the sting of the season ending defeat. Her current and former players along with numerous friends and colleagues all turned out to see her being honored.
“It was really an unexpected great time,” Morris said. “I didn’t expect it to be the way it was. A lot of my friends came, a busload of people. Spellman sent a bus up. All my [players] were there. Coaches from Spellman were there. A lot of my lifelong friends were there.”
Morris, a former star athlete at Spellman, is one of the winningest basketball coaches in state history on the boys’ or girls’ side with more that 700 victories to her credit. She has been coaching the Pilots since 1975. Under her guidance the programs has won 23 division titles, seven Archdiocesan championships, three CHSAA state crowns and one New York State Federation title.
She said it was an honor to be inducted, but gave much of the credit to her players. In her mind it was their 20 wins nearly every year that got her too this point.
“It was nice to be honored, but it is about all those kids, years and years and years of kids,” Morris said.
She spoke in her acceptance speech how she played women’s basketball back when there was six player on the court and you weren’t allowed to dribble. It was that way until her junior year of high school before games went to five on five. She went on to play at Lehman College and reach the NCAA tournament. Being one of the first to play under the modern rules gave her a leg up to begin her coaching career.
“I was one of the few people who had actually played five-player basketball,” Morris said. “It gave me a real springboard to start with. So my teams were very successful right from the beginning because I understood what needed to happen.”
Morris, who is the chair of the physical education department at the school, started coaching the Spellman junior varsity before her college practices and games during her freshman and sophomore seasons at Lehman. She took over the varsity the following year. She was coaching girls just three years younger that her when she started.
It was the start of what is now a Hall of Fame career. Morris said she would never forget the induction ceremony because of the people she shared it with, would still rather be helping her kid early their accolades.
“I told someone I’d give [the] weekend right on back if we were going upstate to play because the kids deserve it,” Morris said. “That’s what we work for all year.”