Coach with a conscience Basketball: Long Reach's Moraz has goals, both for his players and himself. And both sides seem to live up to the expectations.

December 17, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Al Moraz warned his wife, Barbara, before they got married in 1970.

"I told her I'm into this basketball thing, so we can't get married during basketball season. It has to be before Nov. 15 or after March 15." They settled on Oct. 30.

Moraz is still married to Barbara, and after 30 years of coaching is still into the "basketball thing."

Last season he accomplished the difficult task of directing a first-year boys team at Long Reach to the Class 1A state finals and narrowly missing a title. This season the Lightning is 2-1.

Despite changing times, Moraz, 53, remains a walking advertisement for family values. He found a way to coach all three of his children, Al Jr., Kristen and Julie at the high-school level.

Al Jr. is the Long Reach junior varsity coach. Kristen is at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on a basketball scholarship. Julie attends West Virginia but no longer plays basketball. And Barbara still comes to as many Long Reach games as she can.

"How much better can it get," he said. "It was really neat coaching my children. One year, I coached both the boys and girls teams at Hammond."

He was the Hammond boys assistant to Jack Burke from 1987 through 1992, and the Bears reached the state finals two consecutive seasons, losing to Central in overtime, and then to Cambridge.

He was Hammond's girls assistant to Joe Russo from 1992 through 1996 when Kristen and Julie both played. The girls team won three state titles and lost in the finals twice.

Moraz started his coaching career at his alma mater, High Point, in 1967, and stayed until 1985, winning a state title in 1982. He had played football, basketball and baseball at High Point, and football and basketball at Frostburg.

At High Point, he coached Mike Jones and Vernon Butler, who went on to play successfully at the Naval Academy. Butler was a potent force on the David Robinson-dominated Navy teams.

"Butler was the best player I ever coached," he said. "DeMatha told him he wouldn't play much for them, so he came to me at 6-4 and 175 pounds, and left at 6-7 and 220. In the state title game against Northwestern, he played their center, Len Bias, even up, and afterward Lefty [Driesell] came down and asked him to come to Maryland." Bias went on to become one of Maryland's best players.

Moraz joined Navy as an assistant coach from 1984 to 1987, until coach Paul Evans left for Pittsburgh.

"I enjoy working with kids and like to teach," Moraz said. He also teaches physical education. "I'm a big fundamentalist. We work on dribbling, passing and rebounding every day in practice."

Burke, who no longer coaches the boys team at Hammond, but still teaches there, said that one word describes Moraz -- character.

"Underneath the glitz and glamour of being a coach, he has character. He's a man of integrity," Burke said. "He knows basketball, but more importantly he knows how to make decent human beings out of kids. That's a real talent."

"I don't think I ever heard him use a foul word, or even raise his voice more than four or five times. He says, 'cheezey whiz' when he's upset. But don't get me wrong. He's tough and demanding. Yet he's able to relate to kids so that they can respect what he stands for. He's done it with success for a long time, and that gives him credibility. And credibility in this age is hard to get.

"He has expectations and you have to fulfill them or you are gone.

"He's a top-notch person who values his family, ideals and commitments, and who knows what he wants. Howard County was fortunate when he became involved here."

Pub Date: 12/17/97

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