One day before facing some of its stiffest competition of the season, the Gophers men’s basketball team announced it had dismissed senior guard Carlos Morris because of “conduct detrimental to the team.”
“It’s a disappointing turn of events,” coach Richard Pitino said in a news conference immediately following the release. “But he’s off the team and we move on.”
Morris, a team captain who was averaging 25.6 minutes this season, played only four in the Gophers’ 75-71 loss at No. 4 Iowa on Sunday. Pitino wouldn’t say whether that game and the dismissal were related. He did say there was a specific incident that led to his decision, but wouldn’t elaborate whether it was on-court or off-court or whether there were previous incidents that also were considered.
“There was certainly something that happened,” Pitino said. “I’m not going to get into the details of what it was … we addressed it and we move on.”
Morris, who joined the Gophers two summers ago after two years at Chipola College in Florida, started 16 games this season before getting replaced in the lineup by freshman Dupree McBrayer. The 6-5 senior was the team’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 9.8 points, and added 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists a game.
Morris is the second player Pitino has dismissed in the past two seasons, and the fifth player to leave the program for reasons other than graduation or expiring eligibility. Wally Ellenson, a former Tubby Smith recruit and current Marquette player, left the team in February of Pitino’s first season.
Last year, Pitino dismissed transfer Zach Lofton before the start of the regular season for “failing to meet the expectations and obligations of the year.” In November, the team parted ways with then-sophomore Daquein McNeil after he was arrested for two felony accounts of domestic assault. Less than a month later, then-freshman Josh Martin announced he would transfer.
Sophomore Nate Mason said the players were “shocked” when Pitino sat down to explain the situation to the team shortly after giving Morris the word. Mason said he wished the “best of luck” to Morris — who Pitino said took the news “fine” — and said the departure was a reminder to “just cherish every moment just because you never know when something might happen.”
Added senior Joey King, the team’s sole remaining captain: “Obviously it does affect our team, but we have to go in with who we have and play our best basketball, no matter who’s on the court.”
The team will play No. 6 Maryland on Thursday with only nine scholarship players and only one natural shooting guard on the roster. McBrayer and freshman Kevin Dorsey probably will see their minutes grow as a result. Dorsey played a Big Ten-high 29 minutes and scored a career-high 21 points at Indiana on Jan. 30, the only game Morris had missed while at Minnesota. He was attending the funeral of a close friend in Florida.
“We’ve got to look at a couple different things,” Pitino said. “As long as — knock on wood — there are no injuries and there is not a lot of crazy foul trouble, it’s manageable. But we’re already pretty thin to begin with. So fortunately we don’t have a whole lot left in the season, but we’re just going to have to make do with what works and see who steps up.”
The school will honor Morris’ scholarship until he graduates, Pitino said, and he’ll have access to academic support services through the remainder of the school year. Pitino wouldn’t say whether Morris is on pace to graduate by the end of the year but said he is “hopeful.”
“Those guys [his teammates] are all going to still be friends with him,” Pitino said. “I still am always going to act like I’m his coach if he ever needs me. But we’ve got to run a program here and there are certain things that everybody has got to live up to. It’s difficult when it comes to that, but I’ve always got to do what’s best when it comes to the team.”