Dwayne “Tiny” Morton appears to have coached his last game at Abraham Lincoln, but he isn’t leaving like the champion he has been throughout his career. Morton never got control of the overconfidence that grew around his overwhelmingly talented roster that include the city’s best player in Isaiah Whitehead.
Morton said there is a “good chance” he joins Whitehead, a Seton Hall signee, next season, after 19 years as Lincoln boys’ basketball coach and eight city titles. It was reported back in September that he was headed to East Orange next year.
Morton, wearing a Seton Hall hat, expressed more relief than disappointment after the top-seeded and heavily favored Railsplitters were upset by No. 4 Thomas Jefferson 77–74 in the Public School Athletic League Class AA semifinals on March 5.
“You definitely want to go out as a winner, but I feel more relief right now to be honest, because I don’t have to worry about practice tomorrow,” Morton said. “I want to go out as a winner, but sometimes there is a lot of stress.”
He didn’t take any blame for the Railsplitters not winning the second-straight city title that nearly everyone expected. Morton had Whitehead, fellow Seton Hall-signee Desi Rodriguez, and St. Peter’s-bound guard Elisha Boone, along with center Thomas Holley and blue-collar point guard Anthony Williams. The majority of the Railsplitters’ games against New York City teams ended with lopsided scores, highlight-reel dunks and a sense of invincibility that led to overconfidence.
“Just by us coming to Manhattan and showing everybody that we are a real tough team and nobody can possibly beat us,” Whitehead said of putting his team’s talents on display after a borough final win at City College. “We just wanted to show everybody that.”
Morton said his players, not he, looked past Jefferson to the state Federation crown. But it’s the coach’s job to keep his team hungry and humble. Morton then proceeded to place blame on Whitehead — his meal ticket to greener pastures — and on Rodriguez too, for good measure.
“I think Isaiah did a terrible job leading us at the end of the game when we were on a comeback,” Morton said. “Desi fouling out. He did a terrible job fouling out. I think he should position himself not to be anywhere around fouling out.”
His last year as the Railsplitters’ coach will be remembered for Lincoln missing a chance for another crown.
Morton was as big a part of that as his players, even if he won’t admit it.