When longtime Corvallis High volleyball coach Steve Hyre stepped down earlier this year, the school didn’t have to look far to find his replacement.
Kari Morrow, who served as an assistant on Hyre’s staff last fall, will take over the program next season. Morrow, who also works as a science teacher at the school, needed just a few months working alongside Hyre to convince him she was the right person for the job.
Before he announced he would be leaving the program this year, Hyre was already trying to convince Morrow to be his successor.
“Steve raved about her, and I really trust Steve,” CHS athletic director Salvador Munoz said. “He was great to our program and I saw him do a lot of great things this year. When someone like Steve is putting in a great word for her, it speaks volumes.”
For quite some time, Morrow has wanted to make the leap to being a head coach after years working as an assistant. She knew she was capable of it, and knew exactly how she wanted to run a program, But she also has two young children and wondered if she could handle the time commitment.
Corvallis, though, felt like the perfect fit.
“After spending time in the program and with the girls, going to the state tournament and doing all of those things with them ultimately helped me make the decision,” Morrow said. “Like, ‘Yes I think I can do this and yes I want to do this.’ I want to take it on.”
Morrow will take over a Spartans program that has found plenty of success in recent years. Corvallis won the 5A state title in 2018 and reached the state semifinals last season to cap off a four-season stretch in which the Spartans went 88-16 and captured two Mid-Willamette Conference titles.
“I felt really fortunate that I got to work with (Hyre) and with the team this year,” Morrow said. “Just to kind of see what he was doing with them and what was successful. I think that being able to step in after I’ve already sort of coached with him, and be able to take what he has done and add my touch, I think it’s gonna be really good. You can look a little bit at what he was doing, in addition to what I wanna do, and I think that’s gonna make us successful in the long run.”
Coincidentally, Morrow began her coaching career in Corvallis. After she finished school at Oregon State, she served as an assistant under two different head coaches at CHS. She then got her master’s degree and planned to go into teaching, but the job market in Corvallis was thin.
So she moved back to her hometown of Roseburg and worked as a teacher and assistant coach at Roseburg High for five years. For part of that time, she worked alongside her former high school coach, Bruce Myers. Now, she will get the chance to go head-to-head with him; Myers is the current head coach at league rival Central.
During Morrow’s final season at Roseburg, she worked under head coach Danielle Haskett. During that season, six players alleged that Haskett and Morrow had verbally abused them, resulting in a disciplinary investigation by the school and reviewed by an independent investigator. The parents of the six players filed a tort claim against Roseburg Public Schools, and the district reached a settlement with the group in late 2018.
Haskett and Morrow were not disciplined by the school and both finished out the season. After the season, the school chose not to renew Haskett’s contract. Morrow departed Roseburg High the following spring for a teaching job at CHS, where her husband, Chad, was already teaching and coaching basketball.
“She is a phenomenal volleyball coach and teacher,” Roseburg athletic director Russ Bolin said. “She’ll run a great program.”
Morrow denies that she did anything wrong and said “that is in the past and I’m moving forward from it.”
Munoz said the school was aware of the Roseburg investigation when it hired Morrow to teach and coach, and he was completely comfortable hiring her after speaking with Bolin and Hyre.
“We have clear expectations for coaches with how they communicate with students and student-athletes,” Munoz said. “That’s something we hold our coaches accountable for. … And when somebody like Steve Hyre is vouching for her, that carries a lot of weight.”
Morrow said she hopes she can use her collegiate playing experience to benefit her players; she spent two seasons playing two seasons at Lane Community College before transferring to Montana State University Billings.
“I think playing in college makes a big difference in talking with kids and being able to share your experiences,” Morrow said. “To say, ‘I played for tough coaches and I played at high levels before.'”
Munoz said Morrow’s experience as a player and her ability to communicate with her student-athletes played a large part in helping her land the job.
“I think that gives her a lot of credibility with the kids,” Munoz said. “You can just tell she’s a student of the game. She knows how to make kids better. She wants to help each kid find their own particular way to improve, and that’s huge.”
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