Kevin Morrison was a basketball coach on the rise.

As top assistant and lead recruiter on Mike Neighbors’ staff at Washington, he was an architect of the greatest stretch in Husky women’s hoops history.

At age 47 in 2020, it seemed only a matter of time until Morrison, then an assistant with a rising San Diego State women’s program, would land the head-coaching job he had come agonizingly close to getting. Life was good. Morrison had a beautiful family, with a loving wife and four lively kids under age 10 — including triplets born at UW Medical Center.

And then, sequestered at home in San Diego during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Morrison began to experience troubling signs of disorientation and confusion. Sometimes objects would be misplaced, or put upside down. Once he said to the children, “Go brush your hands for dinner.” They just thought Daddy was being silly.

When the diagnosis of significant dementia came in 2020, Heather Morrison was certain it had to be a mistake. Doctors must be reading someone else’s chart. Surely, her young, vibrant, athletic husband could not have this condition that was presented as terminal.

Kevin Morrison was told he would never drive or work again. It was a week before his 48th birthday. The family was understandably stunned. When neurological tests last May pinpointed early-onset Alzheimer’s — confirmed by tests in July — the shock and devastation were overwhelming.

“We were totally blown away,” Heather Morrison said. “I thought maybe worst-case scenario a tumor, depression; they all mimic similar symptoms. Never in our wildest dreams did we suspect Alzheimer’s. There’s no history in his family, so it wasn’t even on our radar.


“You just don’t think this happens to a younger, healthier person. When people think of Alzheimer’s, they think of an old, frail, elderly person. They don’t think of a man who’s active and healthy and strong.”

Heralded for his recruiting prowess and teaching skills, Morrison landed at Washington in 2013 after a successful stint at Cal. Morrison was credited with recruiting a slew of Husky stars, most notably Kelsey Plum, who became the leading scorer in NCAA Division I history.

UW’s runaway success, capped by a Final Four appearance in 2015-16, earned Neighbors his dream job at Arkansas. Morrison moved on to top assistant positions at Georgia Tech and San Diego State. The Morrisons’ future seemed bountiful, until it was irretrievably toppled.

Morrison’s coaching career obviously ended with his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which was at Stage 5 (out of 7). The family’s life would never be the same. But the tremendous outpouring of support from the basketball community, including the Huskies, has helped sustain the Morrison family through their emotional and financial upheaval.

“Our entire life crumbled with this diagnosis,” Heather said.


The biggest lifeline has come from the “4Mom” Charity that was started by former Husky baseball player Braden Bishop when his mom Suzy was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. Bishop is married to Brianna (Ruiz) Bishop, a former Husky basketball player who had been recruited by none other than Morrison, to whom she remained close over the years.

“We had a really tight bond,” Brianna said. “I would always go to him for advice. He was like a second dad to me, pretty much. He was really close to my parents. I learned a lot from him, whether it was basketball or just life stuff.”


When Kevin Morrison called Brianna last summer to tell her of his diagnosis, she, too, was shocked. She thought Morrison was calling to congratulate her on the Bishops’ new baby, born in May 2021. Instead of their usual light banter, Morrison told her, “I have some news, and it’s going to be tough to hear.”

Brianna had watched firsthand as the Alzheimer’s of Suzy Bishop steadily worsened until she died in 2019 at age 59 after a five-year battle. So Bishop knew the magnitude of Morrison’s plight.

“I really never thought that anybody else that close to me would experience this, and I just didn’t know what to say. I was heartbroken,” Brianna said.

The first thing she did was tell Braden, who decided almost instantly that 4Mom would throw its full support behind the Morrison family. And not just to help raise money through the creation of the Morrison Family Grant, though that has been an immense help, given the huge cost of Alzheimer’s care.

More than anything, Bishop wanted to help the Morrisons navigate the complex world of being an Alzheimer’s caregiver and family member. No one had a more intimate understanding of the myriad challenges, and unrelenting stress, brought about by early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was everything he envisioned when he started 4Mom.

“It was kind of like, ‘This is it. This is our chance. We can literally go and help this family right now,’ ” Bishop said. “And so we kind of based it off what my family went through, what my dad was confronted with as a caregiver, financially and emotionally. And then basically try to help Heather through each moment that she’s gone through, whether it be going to doctor’s appointments, explaining this to the kids, nutrition — all these things there’s just no answers to.


“We don’t overwhelm them. But we let them know that they’re not alone. And if they need anything, we’re here. And that’s so much more than just a financial thing. Obviously, that’s a huge part, unfortunately. But more than anything, it’s just, ‘How can we be here for you? So you’re not alone.’ Because when we were going through it, that’s all we felt. We were alone at every turn.”


Heather Morrison knows that feeling well. Not only is she trying to care for Kevin, but also perform her duties as a full-time mom to four active kids amid the typical maze of baseball, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, school, etc.

That is a wrinkle unique to the Morrisons. For an Alzheimer’s patient — even early-onset, which is defined as before age 65 — to have four young kids is rare. The Bishop children, for instance, were in high school and college when their mom was stricken. It has been understandably hard for the Morrison children to understand what’s happening with their dad, though they have risen to the occasion magnificently.

“Going to the 4Mom event in Phoenix (in 2021) was a little bit more eye-opening for Jayce, because he really paid attention to what was being said at the walk,” Heather said of their 10-year-old. “The video of Braden talking about his mom, and how she passed away — I think that’s when it kind of clicked. Like, ‘There’s not a cure for this.’ They’ve had questions, but they have also been very helpful. They understand his brain is playing tricks on him, so he might need more help. And so they’ve been very good with, ‘Oh, here Dad, here’s your fork,’ or, ‘Here’s this,’ or, ‘Come this way.’

“On our way home from Seattle (on a recent trip to UW for a Husky basketball game in their honor), (Jayce) made sure to hold his dad’s hand through the airport and took him to the bathroom and helped with seat belts. You know, a 10-year-old shouldn’t have to do this. But I was proud that he took that initiative on his own.”

The support of 4Mom, Heather said, has been immensely positive. The Morrison Family Grant, subsidized by ongoing fundraising efforts, has helped defray the vast expenditures of Morrison’s care, which quickly depleted the kids’ college funds.


But the Bishops have also provided wise counsel that can only be borne of experience, and even (or especially) a sympathetic shoulder to lean on when things get particularly harried.

“I could go on and on about how horrific this disease is,” Heather said “Bottom line is that we would be lost without 4MOM. They have given us so much hope. … This has already been such an emotional and financial strain on our family.”


Kevin Morrison came into women’s basketball relatively late in his life. Born in La Verne, California, near Los Angeles, he played basketball at the University of San Diego. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona in 1994 with a degree in social work, Morrison settled into a life as a social worker and high-school counselor. When his high school in Southern California needed a girls basketball coach, he was offered the job — and a passion was born.

Morrison eventually turned his focus to the AAU scene, becoming the president and head coach at West Coast Elite and turning it into a national powerhouse. Morrison helped 74 players sign with Division I teams, including 19 McDonald’s All-Americans.

That success caught the attention of Cal coach Joanne Boyle, who offered him a job on her staff in 2007. Morrison helped deliver the No. 1 recruiting class in the country to Berkeley, and the Bears made the postseason in each of his four years, including a Sweet 16 berth in 2009.

While at Cal, a friend of Morrison wanted to set him up with Heather, who was teaching in Southern California at Leuzinger High School. But with 500 miles between them, the logistics were daunting.


“We talked on the phone for many, many months and became good friends,” Heather said. “He kept coming into the L.A. area recruiting, so we finally had lunch. And I just couldn’t think of a reason to not to keep seeing him.”

Marriage and a move to Seattle followed. Jayce, now 10, was born at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue in 2011. Three years later, the triplets — Jaylen, Myles and Mya — were born at UW on April Fools’ Day — “and the joke’s on us,” Heather said affectionately.

The Huskies, led by many of Morrison’s recruits, went to the Final Four in 2015-16 and won a school-record 29 games the following year.


It was emotional for the entire family last month when the Huskies flew them in for a “Morrison Strong” game Jan. 23 against Oregon State. They were introduced at halftime, re-connected with friends and former co-workers and visited old haunts. The event raised more than $7,000 for the Morrison Family Grant.

Current Husky coach Tina Langley is a longtime acquaintance of Morrison, whom she called “one of the greatest men you’ll ever meet. He has given his life to this game and to young women and to growing them as people, and now it’s time for us to give back.”

One of the video messages shown at the game was from Plum, now a WNBA star with the Las Vegas Aces.


“One of the things I loved about Coach Morrison is he kept it real,” Plum said in the video. “I remember being recruited by him, and I remember him calling me, and he would check me. He would be like, ‘KP, you know you need to come to U-Dub.’ He was ultimately the person that convinced me that UW was the place for me, so I’m forever indebted to him.”

Plum and former Cal star Layshia Clarendon staged a fundraising event, including a silent auction, during an Aces-Minnesota Lynx game and has remained active in helping the Morrisons. 4Mom has had several events on their behalf to help fund the Morrison Family Grant, which helps pay medical bills, utilities, provide groceries, school supplies, etc. — and will be available to them as long as there is funding. Bishop said it cost $100,000 a year out of pocket to care for his mom, an amount that is untenable when Heather’s income is limited by her duties as mom and caretaker.


It wasn’t easy for the Morrisons to go public with Kevin’s diagnosis. They decided to do so to help raise awareness toward the goal of finding a cure, and to avail themselves of vitally needed support.

“It made it real,” Heather said. “For so long we lived in our little bubble because of COVID. COVID was kind of a blessing, because we could hide. And we hid this for a year. It was a hard decision to go public, but we knew that we would not be able to get help if we didn’t.”

Doctors say Kevin’s youth and strength might allow him to live longer than most Alzheimer’s patients, but the brain deterioration is irreversible. Though Morrison, now 49, can still bathe and feed himself, his cognitive functions are getting worse. There are times at the kids’ athletic events where he can’t figure out what’s going on.

“At times, he has asked who our kids are, which is heartbreaking,” she said. “All that matters right now is that the kids will remember that Dad was there. We have tried to do more things as a family to take as many pictures as possible and to give the kids as many great memories right now.”


But it’s still a harrowing and unsettling experience for the kids, who are undergoing counseling, and Heather.

“I cry most nights thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’ ” she said. “I just think of how unfair it is for our children.”

Heather says her mom, who lives in the San Diego area, has been an indispensable help. What has also helped ease the pain has been the outreach of the basketball community, all the way back to former players from Morrison’s AAU days. They often reach out to Morrison via FaceTime. The families of former Huskies Katie Collier and Kelli Kingma have sent gift cards. And 4Mom has been a vital conduit to funds and assistance.

“We’re just blown away by the support of people who he inspired years ago and who he took care of years ago,” Heather said. “It’s hard, given that I was a teacher and he was a coach; our lives were both around service and giving to others. And so it’s hard to admit you need help. And then take that help. That was hard for both of us. Like, ‘OK, we can’t do this any more alone.’ ”

The one happy element to this story is that with 4Mom and others who have stepped up, they don’t have to.

4MOM Charity

The 4Mom Charity was started by former University of Washington baseball player Braden Bishop to honor his mom Suzy Bishop, who died of early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2019. They have established the Morrison Family Grant to help the family of former Husky basketball coach Kevin Morrison, now 49, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2021. For more information or to donate, go to