Tod Morgan's impressions of Chapel Hill are different after his second tour of duty here from when he was a student.
Morgan finished his tenure Friday as director of athletics at Chapel Hill, ready to become the new basketball head coach at C.B. Aycock High School in Pikeville.
A native of Morehead City, Morgan spent his first years in Chapel Hill as a student at the University of North Carolina, 1986-91. After coaching in eastern North Carolina for several years, he returned to Chapel Hill as basketball head coach in 2007 and quickly inherited the job as athletics director after athletics director Ronnie Hayes left for Greensboro after a year at CHHS.
“When you’re a student at Carolina, your world doesn't go past Franklin Street all that much,” Morgan said last week. Back then, CHHS seemed to be the frontier. “I'd want to go see Coach (Ken) Miller's team and think, ‘Man, that’s way out there.’
“When you're here as an adult, you become a real member of the community. You still have the university. We can go see the basketball team or the women's soccer team, but there is so much more, way past Franklin Street.”
Looking back on his five years at CHHS, Morgan has memories of his athletics teams forefront in his mind. Chapel Hill won the Wells Fargo Carolina-6 Conference Cup in consecutive seasons, signifying the Tigers overall excellence as the league's top athletics program.
As a coach, Morgan can remember arriving in Chapel Hill to find that the Tigers didn't draw enough fans to justify pulling out one side of the gym's bleachers. He took them from that nadir to playing in front of a standing room only crowd (with fans turned away at the doors) as the Tigers played for consecutive conference championships.
Morgan’s boys basketball teams went 95-34 in his five years as head coach, winning 73.6 percent of their games. They won more than 20 games and won the Carolina-6 Conference championship in each of his last three years.
And there were the things that few fans appreciate, but which mean a lot to athletics teams: new lights for the football, soccer and softball fields; a renovated main gym, including a new floor; new dugouts for softball.
Morgan said there were few things that he wished he'd gotten finished before leaving, especially a new track for Culton-Peerman Stadium — budgeted for next year. Also, he had lights for the tennis courts and some new bathroom and concessions for Tiger baseball Stadium on his list.
He'll leave those for his successor, Tim Bennett of Roanoke Rapids.
Morgan packed up the last of his office items and headed out the door at the end of CHHS classes Friday for New Bern, where he reunited with his wife, Courtney, and daughter Talley Grace, born in Chapel Hill 20 months ago. The couple is expecting their second child, a son, in early December.
Morgan had been commuting to and from Chapel Hill and New Bern every Monday and Friday since last spring, when his wife took an administrative job with the New Bern schools system. After closing up an apartment in Chapel Hill, he spent the last nights of his CHHS tenure crashing with a fellow coach.
Morgan said he’s leaving Chapel Hill with a more profound sense of being part of the town.
“I always said that coaching in Chapel Hill was a ‘bucket list job.’ I feel blessed that I got to live and work here, and I will always cherish my five years here,” Morgan said.
"I know it sounds trite, but my family and I will always be Tar Heels and Tigers in our hearts.”