SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - On Sunday, NYCHoops.net traveled to the Walsh Gym at Seton Hall University to check out their high school team camp. Abraham Lincoln HS was one of the schools invited to attend.
Retired Railsplitter head coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton was also on-hand not only as an observer of his former team but acclimating to his new position as assistant coach with Seton Hall, which begins on July 1st.
Technically, Morton was just a civilian. He was neither a high school coach nor a college assistant coach but merely a spectator…or was he?
The Railsplitters were in the semifinals of the losers bracket at Sunday's camp and playing against Monsignor Scanlon. With the Lincoln assistant coaches running the show and new head coach Kenny Pretlow in observation mode in the background, the Railsplitters were getting torched early on by Scanlon point guard George Pena who dropped 27 points.
The day before, we ran into Morton as he just happened to also be at the Conrad McRae Youth League when Lincoln played Campus Magnet. Although the Railsplitters trounced the Queens, NY team in the end, Morton as if he never left, had some harsh word about his former squad. While he criticized their shot selection, he said the new Lincoln squad has an upside.
"There's not starters coming back. That's the upside to this team," said Morton. "They all play like they're trying to get a starting spot." Morton see that as a blessing and a curse. "Last year's team would have made the extra pass. They are no roles right now and they're playing like that."
Morton believes that the new Railsplitters team is a work in progress but sees that the talent is there. "They're gonna be better than you think they're gonna be," he assured NYCHoops.net
During the Seton Hall Team Camp, Morton sat on the edge of his seat as he watched his former team struggle. At one point, after a miscue, Morton yelled to the Railsplitters assistant coaches, "That was a coaching moment" as he shook his head.
Morton could have easily sat there and let them implode but it was not to be. Some people coach for money; others for accolades. With his next move it became evident, that Morton's primary motivation was the love of coaching kids and making them better. In the blink on an eye, civilian Morton's sideline seat was empty and he was in all the Lincoln huddles, running the sidelines and doing what he does best -- coaching.
"It's over, yo!," jokingly shouted Morton's future co-worker, SHU assistant coach Shaheen Holloway but for Morton this was serious business. "He ain't never been a head coach," Morton quipped back. "He don't understand. Kids are looking for guidance. You can't just sit there and say nothing."
In the fourth quarter, with 16 seconds left to play, Scanlon tied the game at 77 and seemingly had the momentum. At this point civilian Dwayne "Tiny" Morton was in full coaching regalia and running the show to the chagrin of Scanlon coach Rudy King who yelled out in a playful yet serious tone, "Hey [what is he doing here]?"
Lincoln would go on to win 79-77 at the buzzer as they have on numerous occasions for almost two decades under Morton's tenure as head coach. "He just can't stop coaching," said King laughing after the game.
After getting his final high school basketball coaching Jones satisfied, Morton would disappear into the Seton Hall woodwork after the semifinal win by his former team. He would not be present when Lincoln played their final game at the camp. It would be the last high school game coached by Morton before he officially assumed his role with Seton Hall on Tuesday.