`Battleship Bill' Morris Led Huskies To '43 Basketball Title

They called him "Battleship Bill."

The name seemed a natural for the boy from Bremerton who torpedoed his competitors on the basketball court and shot baskets with the precision of a marksman.

Bill Morris was so good on the basketball court that he led the University of Washington Huskies to a 1943 Pacific Coast Conference (now Pac-10) championship and was named all-conference in 1943 and '44 and to some All-America teams in 1943.

After a five-year battle against cancer, Mr. Morris died Friday at age 75.

Mr. Morris played on the UW varsity basketball team under legendary coach Hec Edmundson from 1941 to 1944. The coach rated Mr. Morris, whom he called "William the Conqueror," one of the best guards in his 27-year UW coaching career.

Mr. Morris cut a dashing figure on and off the basketball court with his meticulous sense of style.

"He was very particular in dress," remembered Wally Leask, a teammate of Mr. Morris' for four years, and his roommate during their freshman year. "And he was a fierce competitor. He didn't like to lose."

By the end of his varsity Husky career, Mr. Morris had scored more points in one season - 180 in 1943 - than any other Washington player, and had scored more points - 439 - during his playing career than any other Husky.

In 1945, Mr. Morris began officer training in the Marine Corps, and was sent to the Pacific toward the end of World War II. There, Battleship Bill discovered he didn't like the consequences of battle.

"He talked about the devastation of the people, which devastated him in a lot of ways," remembered his wife, Emmy Morris of Lynnwood.

After the war, Mr. Morris returned to his first love, Husky basketball. From 1947 to 1959, he was coach of the freshman basketball team and assistant coach under Hec Edmundson, Art McLarney and Tippy Dye. Mr. Morris was responsible for gauging the potential of 50 to 100 freshman players each year and emerging with a team of about 15 players. In those days, freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity basketball team.

"He was the one that basically taught the fundamentals for all the incoming players," said Jack Ward, who played for Mr. Morris during his first freshman coaching year. " . . . He loved the game and he loved the players."

Mr. Morris was named to the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, and the Husky Hall of Fame in 1988.

But Mr. Morris had other loves besides basketball.

At Longacres horse track, he worked on the pari-mutuel staff and served as paddock judge for seven years. He had worked in insurance and real estate, and had just retired last year from Boeing, where he had worked in material handling at the Everett plant since 1978.

"He was the most wonderful man you would want to meet," his wife said. "He loved children. He could always visualize what their potentials were before they could."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Morris is survived by his son, Gregg E. Morris of Lake Forest Park; his stepson, Rodger Hoffman of Salt Lake City; his daughters, Julie A. Morris of Kirkland and Joy Morris of Everett, and three grandchildren.

The funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Floral Hills Cemetery in Lynnwood. Donations in memory of Mr. Morris may be made to Snohomish Hospice Care, 2731 Wetmore Ave., Suite 520, Everett, WA 98201.