William "Speedy" Morris was 24 years old and coaching CYO basketball when the opportunity came up to lead Roman Catholic's junior varsity squad.
Soon after, he became Roman's varsity boss and began building the Cahillites into a powerhouse.
"All that's happened since then, well, it's kind of overwhelming," he said.
So, too, was Morris' latest – and arguably most special – hardwood triumph.
The St. Joseph's Prep coach reached rarified air on Friday afternoon, collecting his 1,000th victory in 50 seasons at the high school and college levels, with the host Hawks' 63-42 defeat of Catholic League rival Lansdale Catholic in front of a large crowd at Kelly Fieldhouse.
"I've had some great moments over the years, but this is one of the best," Morris said after accepting countless congratulatory hugs and kisses.
Some of the recognizable faces on hand to witness his latest milestone were Mayor Kenney, a 1976 Prep graduate; ex-Princeton coach Pete Carril; Temple coach Fran Dunphy; and St. Joseph University's coach Phil Martelli.
Morris has shared his hoops wisdom at many of the basketball camps Martelli, a 1972 Prep grad, has directed on Hawk Hill.
"After the game, I just went up to him and let him know that I appreciated all that he's done for my alma mater, the schools where he's coached and the Philadelphia basketball community in general," Martelli said.
How has Morris been able to be so successful at each of his stops?
"Consistency," Martelli said matter-of-factly. "He probably ran practice here [Thursday] the same way he did when he started back at Roman in the late 1960s. Also, he has the same fervor for coaching."
Morris coached the La Salle University men's team for 15 years, the Explorers' women's squad for two, Penn Charter for two and Roman Catholic for 14. This is his 17th season at the Prep.
The longtime Roxborough resident has been inducted into 11 halls of fame and last year was the winner of the Morgan Wootten award for lifetime achievement in coaching high school basketball.
Overall, Morris has a 1,000-425 record (.702 winning percentage). He is 331-110 (.751) at 17th Street and Girard Avenue with the Hawks.
Not surprisingly, the 75-year-old wanted to focus on his players, present and past, and not himself after Friday's victory.
"I've been blessed to have a lot of great kids play for me over the years," he said.
Morris' eldest son, Keith, played for his father at La Salle and has assisted him at the Prep since he took over in 2001. Considerable support also comes from his wife, Mimi, the couple's three other children – Brian, Margaret Mary, and Chris – and eight grandchildren.
Prep senior guard and captain Darius Kinnel registered 18 points, including the 1,000th of his career, and five assists in the romp over Lansdale Catholic. "Scoring 1,000 points in four years is a lot better than me getting 1,000 wins in 50 years," Morris quipped.
Does Morris plan to return for a 51st season on the sideline?
"If I'm healthy I'll be back next year," he said. "I love coaching."
Lansdale Catholic 6 10 6 20 – 42
St. Joseph's Prep 19 12 16 16 – 63
LC: Kyle Kane 10, Tim Cunane 4, Luke Godzieba 7, Nick Romeo 4, Jack Kusters 11, Mo Kahney 6.
SJP: Darius Kinnel 18, Kyle Thompson 15, Ed Croswell 10, Jacob O'Connell 6, Gabe Arizin 9, Trevor Wall 5.
School | Seasons | Years | Win-Loss
St. Joseph's Prep | 17 | 2001-Present | 331-110
La Salle Univ. (Men's) | 15 | 1986-2001 | 238-203
La Salle Univ. (Women's) | 2 | 1984-86 | 43-17
Penn Charter | 2 | 1982-84 | 41-14