Cyclones try to put turbulent times behind them

Updated: October 21, 2003, 8:17 PM ET

AMES, Iowa -- Wayne Morgan kept trying to shoo away a fly that buzzed around the microphones during his first media day as Iowa State's basketball coach.

"Will somebody kill this fly?" Morgan asked.

If only his other problems were so simple.

Morgan became the Cyclones' coach last May during a turbulent time. Former coach Larry Eustachy had resigned after it was revealed he had partied with college students on Big 12 road trips, embarrassing the university and leaving a dark cloud over the program.

Just digging out of that mess was tough enough, but it turned out to be only the beginning of his worries.

Freshman Adam Haluska, the team's fourth-leading scorer last season, transferred to Iowa. Starting point guard Tim Barnes was arrested for drunken driving, then became academically ineligible for the first semester.

Last week, Jackson Vroman, the team's best inside player, was charged with drunken driving, his second arrest in five months. He earlier was charged with marijuana possession. Vroman, who averaged 12.5 points and a team-leading 9.4 rebounds, was suspended indefinitely and his future with the team is in doubt.

Now, with what veterans remain and four promising newcomers, Morgan has to mold a team that can compete in one of the nation's premier conferences.

So far, the best thing that has happened to the Cyclones is Oct. 18. That was the day practice started. No more distractions, just basketball.

"That's huge for us," center Jared Homan said Tuesday. "When practice starts, you don't have time to do anything else. You're committed to basketball 24-7. We're just looking forward to getting these games started."

Morgan, who had been an assistant to Eustachy, comes to the job with six years of experience as the head coach at Long Beach State, where he was 91-84. He said he has weathered the storm by focusing on each task that comes up.

"That's my nature. When I get to the basketball court, I don't see or hear anything else," Morgan said. "If a young man's in my room and we're talking about academics, that's what we're dealing with. We're not dealing with anything else.

"Some of the things that have happened here have been atypical. This is actually a wonderful, wonderful place with wonderful people. I've said over and over again, not only do I think we have the best fans in the country, I think the people of Iowa are the best people I've ever been around."

Still, it's tough when the program keeps making news for all the wrong reasons.

"It's never good," said guard Jake Sullivan, who led the team with a 17-point scoring average. "But God put us all in positions for certain reasons. I'm out here for a reason, Coach Morgan's out here for a reason. Hopefully, it's to turn this program back around.

"There's nothing that we can do about what went on. It's disappointing. You never like to see it happen. But maybe in the end some good came out of it."

As for Eustachy, who recruited Sullivan to Iowa State, "I just wished him the best of luck and that we could all move on. This program has to move on as well."

Morgan is counting on his newcomers to help make that happen. With Barnes out, 5-foot-11 freshman Will Blalock probably will start at point guard, with help from another freshman, 6-2 Curtis Stinson.

Damion Staple, a 6-8 junior college transfer, and 6-9 freshman Reggie George, will have to help Homan inside.

"I expect to use all my freshmen," Morgan said. "I think they're all talented. I think they all can contribute to helping us win basketball games."

Morgan made countless speaking appearances during the summer, trying to bring boosters and fans back into the fold after the turmoil from the Eustachy episode. In the end, he feels he was the one who was helped.

"I realized the tremendous amount of support that these kids have. I realized the tremendous amount of support this program has behind it," Morgan said. "There were times I was very tired, and going and seeing those people would regenerate me and give me more energy to go on and push harder the next day."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index