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Mailbag: Harris reached top through hard work

November 09, 2011

Coach Jim Harris began to leave his legacy in my life when we were teammates at what was then known as Long Beach State. A couple of years behind me, he came onto Coach Perry's team with eager eyes and well-honed skills — hoops were his world.

After I graduated and took my first coaching job in Orange County, Jim and I reconnected. We now had wives and families, who also became acquainted at summer league basketball games in the Huntington Beach High School gymnasium with Jim as a referee and me as a coach. It wasn't long until the subject of teaching and coaching came up and the legacy of Jim Harris the basketball coach began. He became intent on completing his education in order to teach and coach, and that is exactly what he did. Gunning for the goal, he pounded headlong down the court of college to obtain his degree, and it worked.

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With his degree in hand, it was time for student teaching, there was no time to waste. Coach Harris' growing family required a teaching position — fast! Coach Harris' legacy took the first shot at Fountain Valley High School, where he was offered a "this-never-happens" summer school student-teaching position. Doing this, he would be ready to launch into his first paid teaching assignment in the fall, accompanied by a basketball coaching position, of course.

The first quarter of Coach Harris' basketball coaching career came quickly. I was not only his college teammate but was now the head basketball coach at Fountain Valley High School, and Jim was the perfect coach for our freshman team. His transition into what was to become nearly 700 career wins took off at the first buzzer and mushroomed into winning 60-plus games in his first three years coaching. It was magic. We shared coaching techniques, family interests, faith practices and a friendship that would transcend a career of competition. His impact on young men, who are now grandfathers, has left the mark of love for family and basketball on their lives. I know, they have told me.

Through the years, our teams met on the courts of Orange County, with most of the wins going to Coach Harris. But our families met on the courts of our backyards, of ski and snow trips and of celebrations in our homes. The legacy he leaves began on a court but ends in my heart and the hearts of all those players, coaches, parents and friends that he touched with his kind smile.

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