Del Harris Rumors
“John Wooden was the guy that was the epitome of basketball for me and a lot of others when we were kids,” Harris said. “So when I started coaching, he was on top, and I went wherever I could to listen to his clinics. “I was a poor representation of John Wooden, I’m sure. But when I was in Los Angeles, I was able to spend time with him. I sat at the UCLA practices to watch his team practice. I took him to lunch; I sat in his apartment an entire afternoon just talking about basketball and life.”
Texas Legends assistant general manager Del Harris will receive the John Wooden “Keys to Life” Award during ceremonies held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington next month at the NCAA Final Four. The award is given to a professional or college basketball coach or player who models the characteristics of Wooden, the late, legendary coach who led UCLA to 10 national titles from 1964-75.
Said Harris on Sunday: “Rick will be known by his friends and those players who followed him closely by one short sentence: He cared. “Regardless of how demanding he was, Rick proved his love for friends and players past and present in a myriad of ways. I have recorded and saved voicemails he has sent me and my son Dominic has saved encouraging letters Rick sent him from years past. Obviously I could go on and on. “He had tons of friends (in the game). He was totally dedicated to his family, particularly caring for his mother after his father died. He called me the brother he never had and I suspect he used that expression a lot.”
Rick Majerus’ solitary season on an NBA bench in 1986-87 was spent as a Milwaukee Bucks assistant to head coach Don Nelson and sidekick to then-Bucks assistant Del Harris. Nelson and Harris quickly became two of Majerus’ closest friends in the game. The longtime college basketball coach’s passing Saturday was thus felt deeply in Dallas, where the Nelson-and-Harris tag team remains firmly entrenched after they reunited with the Mavericks from 2000 through 2007 alongside current Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.
What got you back to bench? The timing is kind of crazy. I was coaching in America’s Cup, the Olympic trials tournament, with the Dominican Republic. I was coming off a basketball high because of how well our team competed. It was the first time they ever won a medal in major competition. I was kind of at a vulnerable time with coaching. So I told Donnie I would do it. Ready for D-League life? It really takes me back to my beginnings in professional ball in 1975 when I started in the ABA. The first few years in the NBA we stayed at Holiday Inns, had to take commercial flights; so I’ve been preparing for this for many years without knowing it.
Harris, 74, couldn’t resist the pull. After realizing he could handle the travel schedule and his teaching obligations at Dallas Christian College, the silver-haired basketball lifer agreed to his first full-time coaching job since the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. Being back on the bench is hardly a surprise in a career that’s spanned more than 50 years. The former NBA Coach of the Year slides over from his Legends general manager seat to coach the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate.
Marc Stein: With D-League’s Texas Legends, Sam Perkins will coach big men for Del Harris and Marques Haynes will join Webb and Lieberman as an advisor
The NBA D-League’s Texas Legends will introduce 1995 NBA Coach of the Year Del Harris as their new coach Tuesday, according to team sources. Harris, 74, worked as the Legends’ general manager in their inaugural season while also serving as a sounding board to former Legends coach Nancy Lieberman, who became the first-ever female to coach a men’s team under the NBA’s umbrella in 2010-11. Citing family reasons, Lieberman surrendered her coaching duties in July, opting to become the Legends’ assistant general manager so she could avoid heavy traveling during her son T.J.’s senior year of high school.
Rob Mahoney: Del Harris noted being in Space Jam as one of the highlights of his career. The man is internet approved.
Reached Sunday night by ESPNDallas.com, Harris retold one of his favorite stories about his friend, rewinding to the night he was coaching the Milwaukee Bucks against Chicago with the “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” star in attendance. “He and I were honorary co-chairmen for the Vince Lombardi Foundation for a couple of years and did public service announcements for the two main fundraisers that were both in Milwaukee,” Harris said. “During the basketball season he was in town to cut a promo and came to our game at home with the Bulls and Michael Jordan. “We won the game and security brought him down to the exit tunnel as the players and coaches were exiting the court. We had already had the lookalike thing going and I had actually signed a name to an autograph a time or two, so I said to him, ‘How about going in the locker room and act like you are me and tell them they played a good game or you are proud of them or whatever you have.’ He did it and the guys loved it. “He brought a lot of laughter to the world, but not tonight,” Harris said. “Peace, Leslie.”