Posts Tagged ‘Del Harris’

A disciple of Wooden, Del Harris wins award in legendary coach’s name

Del Harris

Del Harris spent 14 seasons as a head coach in the NBA.


DALLAS — Former NBA coach Del Harris grew up in Indiana idolizing fellow Hoosier Stater John Wooden. During Final Four weekend next month in North Texas, Harris will receive the Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” award at the Legends of Hardwood breakfast.

Harris, 76, coached for more than 50 years, starting at junior high, high school and college before guiding the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He spent many more years as a top assistant, including in Dallas under Don Nelson. Harris, who lives in Dallas, remains tied to the game as the vice president of the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate Texas Legends in suburban Dallas. Harris is also a part-time studio analyst on New Orleans Pelicans broadcasts.

The “Keys to Life” honor is akin to a lifetime achievement award. That it is in the name of the legendary Wooden means the world to Harris, who as an ordained minister started out in life as a preacher, “and I still do that most of the time,” Harris said Friday prior to the Mavs taking on the Pacers, “but it became obvious early on that what I was called to do was coach basketball, primarily.”

The significance of coach Wooden’s influence on Harris’ life and his career is best told by Harris, a walking, talking basketball encyclopedia in his own right:

“When I was growing up in Indiana, I grew up 30 miles or so from Martinsville, where he played. When I was quite young and starting to play, the NBA hadn’t started yet. So our heroes in those days in Indiana were the high school players and the college players that had established themselves. Guys like coach Wooden, he was the No. 1 as a player winning the championships in high school and then being at Purdue, the best player at that time, in our little world. Those were our heroes.

“Then in the ’50s in high school, the NBA by then had started up. There were eight teams playing, nothing on TV or anything like that. John Wooden was a guy that was the epitome of basketball for me and for a lot of others when we were kids. And so when I started coaching, he was on top, obviously, and I went wherever I could to listen to his clinics. I went to New York one time just to hear him. I patterned as much as I could from his work and what I learned from him and also from Dean Smith, just a little bit later on he came into our place in 1966-67 and spent a few days in my home. Those two guys were the foundation for what I tried to do. Now, I was a poor representation of John Wooden I’m sure, but later on when I was in L.A., I was able to spend time with him, I sat in on UCLA practices and watched the team practice, I took him to lunch, I sat in his apartment for an entire afternoon and talked about basketball and life.

“My dad, when he died, I was going through his things and he always — he called coach Wooden, coach Wooten, but he also thought Iowa was Ioway, too, so — but anyway he thought he [Wooden] was the best ever and so forth. When going through his things, he had a picture, I don’t know where he got it, of the Wooden family — he had a Wooden family photo among his things. And so I know that, he’s been gone now since 1998 and it was a life-changing event for me when he died, I know that of all the things that might have come my way, this would be the most important thing that my dad would have appreciated.”

Congratulations to Del Harris.

Also to be honored during the Final Four is another Dallas resident and basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. She has been named the Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Women’s College Basketball.

Lieberman became the first women to coach a professional men’s team when she guided the D-League Legends for one season. She currently joins Harris in the franchise’s front office and is a full-time studio analyst on Oklahoma City Thunder broadcasts.

Rambis Hire Fraught With (Real Or Imagined) Intrigue For 2013-14, Beyond

Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Kurt Rambis is back with his beloved Los Angeles Lakers — not reunited with Phil Jackson, but aligned with Mike D’Antoni — as the Hollywood subplots thicken yet again [insert suspenseful organ music here].

On the surface, Rambis is a great hire. He’s had three previous stints with the team he won four championships with, playing the role of the blue-collar banger, the garbage man on a team of stars. Known for being more of a defensive mind, he should serve well his new boss who has been a little light on ‘D’ wherever he’s been and will never make it as a Tom Thibodeau stunt double.

On Monday, the Lakers announced the hiring of Rambis and longtime assistant Johnny Davis. Earlier in the month, Mark Madsen was elevated as a member of D’Antoni’s revamped staff for the mystery that is the 2013-14 season.

“Kurt is a great basketball mind, extremely good at working with big men and his experience as a head coach in this league is going to prove very helpful to our staff,” D’Antoni said in statement.

Rambis went 32-132 in two seasons at Minnesota, but, after all, that was with those Timberwolves. But Rambis did go 24-13 with the Lakers after Del Harris got the boot following a 6-6 start to that lockout-shortened season. Jackson began his first L.A. run the next season.

Rambis’ latest return to the Lakers comes eight months after he first unpacked his whiteboard. Five games into last season and Rambis was set to check out of both his ESPN and local L.A. analyst chairs for a red-carpet return to the bench. When the Lakers canned Mike Brown it certainly appeared that the great one — ”11 Rings” Jackson — would descend from the Montana mountaintop and right-hand Rambis would be right behind him.

“They had told Phil that it was his job [in a Saturday interview], that he was their first choice, and they agreed to wait until Monday … to allow him time to digest whether or not he felt he was, in fact, the right coach to come and coach this team,” Rambis told USA TODAY Sports on Nov. 12. “And, in fact, his agent [Todd Musburger] flew into town — he’s here from Chicago — to start negotiations. So Phil had made his mind up that he wanted to coach this team. Somewhere between Saturday afternoon, when Phil and I had a conversation, and Sunday night, the Laker organization made a complete 180-degree turn.”

In the ugly aftermath, Rambis wasn’t shy about criticizing D’Antoni’s coaching from whichever analyst chair he occupied.

Now, he’s just happy to be a member of D’Antoni’s staff, as he tweeted Monday.

At D’Antoni’s last stop, he also made a mid-stint hire to bring in the more defensive-set Mike Woodson from the Atlanta Hawks prior to the 2011-12 season. Seven months later, the embattled D’Antoni resigned and Woodson was named interim coach, and later had the interim tag removed.

D’Antoni hiring Rambis can be interpreted as a smart move to bring in a longtime Kobe Bryant ally, a decision some might say reveals a flexible side to the coach when he’s so often criticized for inexplicable rigidity. Or it can be viewed as management’s way of moving in a ready-made interim in case things dip in a southerly direction and smoke signals must go out to Jackson.

Or, maybe this interesting hire simply indicates the Lakers are moving to sign another Rambis guy from his past Lakers days — Lamar Odom.

Lakers At The Crossroads

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Few men in the history of organized activity stand above the fray the way Phil Jackson does.

Love him or loathe him, Jackson has the pedigree, wisdom, accomplishments, respect and public adulation that only the greatest leaders of men have attained throughout the years. He earned his stripes first as a player, a foot soldier, if you will, before rising up the leadership ladder to five-star general status as a coach.

Somewhere around six or seven titles he moved into legendary status. By the time he walked away from the game two years ago, he had earned his place upon the coaching Mount Rushmore, nestled somewhere between Knute Rockne and John Wooden among the all-time greats.

So forgive us here at the hideout if we’re having a bit of a problem understanding why Mike D’Antoni, and not Jackson, is the choice as the Los Angeles Lakers’ new coach. The Lakers knew the moment Jackson exited the facility in El Segundo headed for what was supposed to be life after basketball that he had more left in his hoops tank.

He wasn’t finished then and he wasn’t ready for the ride to end.

Now the Lakers sit at the crossroads, hoping that D’Antoni will light the pathway to continued championship contention while Jackson is left to ponder why he wasn’t the right fit to replace the fired Mike Brown, the man unlucky enough to try to replace Jackson.

History isn’t on the Lakers’ side so long as Kobe Bryant is on the roster. He’s never made it anywhere near The Finals without Jackson as his coach. That’s not a knock on Brown, Del Harris, Kurt Rambis, Rudy Tomjanovich or Frank Hamblen. It’s just a fact.

Some coaches and players are just inextricably linked throughout the annals of time.

Michael Jordan had the same link to Jackson, never reaching the heights he did in the NBA with anyone else (Kevin Loughery, Stan Albeck or Doug Collins are the names here) before or after his time with Jackson.

The 67-year-old “Zen Master” has an unparalleled history of success in the NBA, holding the record for the most championships in NBA history as a player and a coach (after breaking the tie with Bill Russell when the Lakers captured the title in 2009). He also owns the highest winning percentage of any NBA coach (.704) and has championship rings for both hands and three of his toes, having earned two as a player with the New York Knicks and the other 11 as a coach of both the Chicago Bulls (six) and Lakers (five).

The Lakers, apparently, wanted a different voice this time around. Perhaps they wanted someone who came with fewer conditions for taking the job or someone who didn’t demand control of all personnel decisions, a likely sticking point with a front office staff still weary from their previous dealings with Jackson.

D’Antoni’s a fine coach, universally regarded as one of the very best in the business before being fired in New York last season. His familiarity with not only Bryant but Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard will no doubt benefit the Lakers’ bottom line this season.

Lakers have every right to be and should be excited about the offense D’Antoni could bring with him. It’s worked wonders for many players over the years, the primary beneficiaries being his point guards. It started with Nash in Phoenix and ended with Jeremy Lin in New York as D’Antoni oversaw a cosmic run as the offensive Morpheus of basketball.

It should be noted, however, that D’Antoni’s star-studded groups in Phoenix never could overtake the Lakers or San Antonio Spurs and reach the The Finals. He also had a talent-laden (albeit a bit flawed) roster to work with in New York and could never get them to play to their potential.

So just like Brown or Mike Dunleavy, who was also considered this time around, D’Antoni comes with lingering questions about exactly what he’ll be able to do while stuck in the middle of the crucible that is the toughest coaching job in the NBA.

The same could have and would have been said about both Jerry Sloan and Nate McMillan, two unemployed coaches mentioned as potential candidates but were never spoken to, per TNT’s David Aldridge, by the Lakers.

The only coach the Lakers could have hired who would have walked through the door without any of those same question marks is the one they spurned over the weekend.

They botched this hire the last time, choosing Brown to replace Jackson. For the sake of their aging stars, they have to get it right this time.