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Harris' legacy goes beyond banners

Ocean View basketball coach not only pushed players to success but inspired others as teacher, colleague.

November 02, 2011|By Steve Schultz

Jim Harris' reach goes well beyond the Seahawk uniform. Coach Harris mentored students who were never in his math classes and young coaches like me who never attended his school or played on his team.

While Ocean View High School's gymnasium is lined with championships banners from rafter to rafter, what's really important can't be hung on the walls.

Over the past nine years, Harris became one of the most impactful mentors in my life. I was 19 years old and had just started coaching the freshman basketball team at Fountain Valley High School, a team Harris coached back in the '70s. On the fourth day of coaching at the Pacific Coast Basketball Camp that Harris and Craig Impelman put on at Ocean View, Harris pulled me aside and started pouring his guidance into me.

Harris must have seen I needed a lot of help, so he invited me into his classroom and spent more than an hour with me diagraming fast-break patterns and talking coaching philosophy. Mike Krzyzewski said, "Leaders show respect for people by giving them time." No coach has ever given me as much time as Harris did.

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The next year, I became the head JV coach at Fountain Valley High, and Harris called and invited me to come to his varsity practices. Although Ocean View and Fountain Valley aren't in the same league, I was shocked he would allow a coach from an opposing school into his sanctum.

Harris spent 90% of the practice by my side, explaining to me why they did what they were doing. There was a philosophy behind every detail. As Pat Williams said, "The greatest teachers not only explain the how, but the why." When it comes to greatness, Harris is a giant.

And for the next five years, Harris let my basketball teams come for free every summer to his and Impelman's camp and meet the greatest of them all, John Wooden. How kind and what a life-altering gift he gave to my boys to be able to meet and learn from Wooden about success. It was always my favorite day of the year. Wooden said, "You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for another who can never repay you." Harris made every day perfect, or as Wooden would say, "a masterpiece."

In 2009, Harris led his team to another CIF championship game. My younger brother Stuart and I attended to show our support for Coach. We were five or six rows back from the court of Mater Dei's gym. About 30 minutes before game time, Ocean View came out from the locker room, dressed in unison, so disciplined and focused.

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