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Frisco STYLE Magazine

A Fitting Honor

Sep 01, 2022 ● By Stephen Hunt
When Del Harris started coaching basketball more than six decades ago at a Tennessee junior high school, he had no idea of the long and rewarding career that was ahead of him.

In the years since, he has also coached high school, college, professional and international basketball. 

Since 2011, he has worked with the Texas Legends, the Frisco-based NBA G-League franchise, first serving as its head coach, then as general manager and currently as vice president. 

Harris, who with his wife Ann has called Frisco home since 2000, has been a NBA head coach with the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He also was an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks.

In 1992, he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Three years later, he was named NBA Coach of the Year while with the Lakers. In 1996, he was inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Basketball Hall of Fame, and was part of the 2020 inaugural class of the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame. 

On Sept. 10, 85-year-old Harris will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts. Others in the class include his close friend George Karl, a former longtime NBA head coach.

“Not to minimize any other awards, but from strictly a basketball standpoint for a person who spends a significant amount of his life working in basketball, this is the top award,” Harris told Frisco STYLE about the honor. 

“You never can imagine … that you’d ever receive anything like this. Even after doing it 20 to 30 years, I never thought about it. I coached 20 years before I coached as a head coach in the NBA at all the various levels starting with junior high. There’s not too many guys that start in junior high thinking they might be in the Naismith.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who knows Harris well from his time with the Mavs (2000-2007) and through his roles with the Legends, offered his congratulations. 
“Del is a legend. He has had an undeniable impact on the game of basketball at all levels,” Cuban said. “This award is richly deserved.”

 Harris will have a sizeable contingent of family there including his wife, children (son Larry is the assistant general manager and director of player personnel for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors) and grandchildren to share in his moment. 

Del and Ann (who earlier this year was named Frisco STYLE’s 2022 Person of the Year) moved to Frisco more than two decades ago when it was a small community. In 2001, the couple founded the Del and Ann Harris Foundation for Christian Principles, now a donor advised fund that has awarded scholarships to students through the Frisco Education Foundation as well as those attending Christian colleges. 

Del Harris is quick to credit his family for the countless sacrifices they have made over the years so that he could follow his dream of coaching basketball. 

“To do the work at any significant level requires a lot of sacrifice on the part of the coach,” Harris said. “But while that coach is making a sacrifice, the family … (is) sacrificing as well to make up for the time that coach isn’t home, particularly at the major university or NBA level that really requires so much travel and full-time mental preoccupation.”

After coaching at the junior high school level, Harris went on to coach high school ball for four years in his native Indiana, leading to a gig at Earlham College where he also coached in Puerto Rico during the summers. In nine seasons at Earlham, he led the Quakers to the NAIA playoffs seven times, including to their only conference championship. 

Harris’ first professional coaching gig came in 1975 as an assistant with the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association. When the team folded the following year, he landed in Houston as an assistant coach for the Rockets — the first of six NBA teams he would coach as an assistant or head coach. He also coached five different national teams (Puerto Rico, Canada, USA, China and Dominican Republic).

 As much as the game has given to him, Harris has also done his share of giving back. 
Most recently, that has seen him coaching the Legends’ summer camps, which provide an opportunity to share some of the life lessons that basketball has taught him. 

“I tell (young players) they’re going to be learning something because of the good coaches we have working, (lessons) that will help them no matter what they do in life,” he said. 

“When you do it right, learning to be on a basketball team will help you when you are a part of your other teams in life, even at home. We want them to learn to be more thankful to their parents for giving them this opportunity. In basketball, there’s only five on the court and they are dependent on the other four to do certain things every time the ball moves. You learn about cooperation, hard work and how to share.”

Harris has especially enjoyed his work with the Legends, whether it has been through teaching youths at the team’s summer camps or honoring Frisco residents who do great things in the community as part of the Legend of the Night program during home games. “We give awards out at half court before each game. It’s just a unique thing that they do. It’s been good.”

Stephen Hunt is a longtime frisco resident and a lifelong basketball fan.