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Morgan steps away from Mitchell girls basketball

Mitchell girls basketball coach Wes Morgan calls a play during a Class AA state tournament game in Rapid City. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

Wes Morgan is changing benches next season, ending an 11-year stint as coach of the Mitchell High School girls basketball team.

He concluded his run on the Kernel girls' sideline with a fourth-place finish at the Class AA state tournament in Rapid City on Saturday, guiding Mitchell to a 14-10 record. However, with his son—Steele—starting high school next year, Morgan wanted to make sure he'd be able to watch him play.

The Mitchell basketball teams usually play at separate venues on the same night during the regular season.

"It's not so much I'm walking away from this group of girls," Morgan said. "I told them I'm going to follow this group through. It just so happens my son will be a freshman next year and I want to watch him play. I have to watch him play."

Morgan finishes with a 134-125 overall record, as well as plenty of postseason success. He led the Kernels to six state tournaments, including three straight championship game appearances (2012-14) and a state title in 2012. They defeated Sioux Falls Washington, 56-54.

However, Morgan said his favorite part during his time as the Kernels' coach was bonding with his players, and helping a team improve through the season.

"I put a high mark on being successful, but I don't measure my success by how many wins I have," he said. "You learn how to help kids win even though you don't win at the score. That's been my goal all the way through."

Morgan said he'll likely become an assistant coach on the Kernel boys' sophomore team. While he'll no longer be a head coach or coaching his son, being able to watch Steele play was more important.

Mitchell boys basketball coach Todd Neuendorf didn't downplay the impact adding Morgan into his program would make.

"If we're fortunate enough for him to move over, we'd be excited," he said. "He'll have a different perspective and he won't be afraid to give me an idea. And he'll know if he gives me an idea and I don't use it, I'm not going to hurt his feelings."

Mitchell Activities Director Cory Aadland said they haven't decided on a new coach yet. He wants to see if there's interest internally before widening the coaching search, while also not wanting to put a timetable on a potential hiring.

"I know we have some people interested in it, or at least considering it," Aadland said. "We'll see if someone wants to commit to that and then we'll move forward. ... I'm not in a big hurry to fill it. I just want to make sure we get the right person."

For Morgan, he's excited about the change as he "just wants to help." Although, he left the door open for a possible return.

"I have a girl who's a first grader," Morgan said. "So maybe when (Steele's) through, I'll come back and help the girls team."

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