If you have followed basketball in Virginia over the past 20 years, chances are you have heard of Del Harris, Collegiate’s new boys varsity basketball coach and basketball program director.
Growing up in Richmond, Harris developed a love for competition in all sports from an early age. He loved playing football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and essentially all other team-oriented sports. His dad was an academic advisor for the VCU men’s basketball team, so he naturally grew closer to the basketball. He was often spotted on the baseline during Rams’ home games as a ball boy. In 1992, he earned an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) All American Award at the U12 level.
Harris started his high school education at Monacan High School where he became an All District player. He then transferred to Fork Union Military Academy, where he was awarded All Region and All State honors. “I formed tight relationships with teammates and coaches at Monacan,” says Harris, “Fork Union was more like a brotherhood. I became more self-disciplined and was able to focus more on my career and future.”
After high school, Harris spent one year at Howard Community College in Maryland before transferring into The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga with the dream of playing Division I basketball. Harris claims that his drive to play at the Division I level helped him form his passion of coaching basketball. He later transferred back home to Virginia State University to earn his BA in health and sports management.
His decision to begin a coaching career sprouted from his leadership qualities on the court. As a point guard, Harris became especially vocal, encouraging, and commanding throughout his playing career. “A point guard is the coach on the court,” he points out, “just like the quarterback is in the huddle, and the catcher is on home plate.” His well-rounded experience as a decorated high school, college, and AAU player fueled his passion for mentoring younger players. He simply had too much love for the game to not be involved after college.
He began his coaching career in Chamberlayne Youth League, coaching 8 and 9-year-olds in the Richmond area. He quickly moved up the ranks, becoming a middle school coach at both Matoaca and Bailey Bridge Middle Schools in Chesterfield County. He then transitioned into AAU basketball, where he eventually became head coach of the AAU U17 team. He has been to three AAU national championships: one as a player, one as a D3 head coach, and one as an assistant D1 coach. His AAU coaching career came to a halt in 2004 when he became an administrative assistant coach at the University of Richmond. He gained experience through other assistant jobs at VMI and Morgan State University through the next three years until 2008. Harris then took a job as head coach at Vassar College in upstate New York. He also worked as Assistant Athletic Director during his five years at Vassar.
Harris takes pride in coaching many high-profile players with college or professional potential, but his two most distinguished players are Tyrese Rice and Reggie Williams. Rice played at L.C. Bird during his high school days. He became well-known in the Richmond area after scoring 46 points in a tournament in the Siegel Center. He then attended Boston College, where he received All-ACC honors. He was most recently named 2014 EuroCup MVP playing overseas in Germany, Spain, and Israel, among others. Reggie Williams is from Prince George, Virginia and played at VMI in college. Although undrafted, he has played for the Warriors, Spurs, and Thunder in the NBA.
Besides coaching AAU, Harris also hosts events through the Del Harris Basketball Academy (DHBA) outside of Collegiate. He directs camps and clinics with a focus on fundamentals. The academy incorporates middle school through college skill levels, and events are driven by competition and fun. DHBA also puts a huge emphasis on the community, giving back through projects with the homeless and motivational speaking at local high schools. “Basketball gives me the opportunity to influence the greater community,” Harris stresses, “and more specifically the lives of young athletes.”
Harris’ decision to come to Collegiate was not forced. “Growing up in this area, I’ve always had great respect for the community and character of Collegiate,” he says, “Coming from a family richly involved with higher education, it knew it would be a great fit.” Harris also admires the importance of the boys basketball program at Collegiate, not just the team. He envisions it as a European academy overseas, where younger players will be instilled with sound fundamentals and basketball IQ so that they will be prepared for JV and varsity in the future.
That being said, he does note that a solid foundation of discipline and fundamentals has already been set by former head coach Alex Peavey. “During the first open gym of the year I could tell the coaches have done an excellent job of incorporating fundamentals and drills in the past.” He also admires Peavey’s ideas of community and character in the program. Peavey praises Harris’ coaching styles and believes he will bring new effective aspects to the program. “His positive energy will help uplift and challenge players, whereas I brought a calmness,” Peavey explains, “What I do know about him, we have a lot of similarities within our style of play.”
The 2016-2017 season will be his first time coaching a high school team. Harris is most excited about the community being involved in the success of the team this upcoming winter. “I’m really excited for the games to be packed and the Cub and JV players, along with athletes from different sports, coming out to support us. I hope the spectators get excited about Collegiate basketball, because I believe we will put a good product out on the floor.”
All images courtesy of Del Harris.