Del Harris

I met Del in the early Nineties when I edited a book he wrote, Winning Defense. I don’t like to use the word “genius” to describe coaches, preferring to save that designation for nuclear physicists and the like, but if there is such a thing as a coaching genius, he’s one. A lot of coaching books are ghost-written. His are not.

Oh, and he won a lot of games, too.

He was born and raised in Plainfield, where he became steeped in the traditions of Hoosier Hysteria. He owns the distinction of having attended Milan’s state championship win in 1954. Still has the ticket stub, in fact. He also has a great story about how his father got into state tournament games at Butler.

He had a varied coaching career that included a successful run at three Indiana high schools, then Earlham College, and then stops with the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He won everywhere. Even Earlham, for crissake, where his teams went 175-70. He led Houston to the NBA Finals his first year there, won big in Milwaukee, and was voted Coach of the Year his first season in Los Angeles. He coached the Lakers to improved records for three consecutive years after that, finishing with the flourish of a 61-win season.

Something always seemed to catch up with Harris in the end. Bad timing, a dispute with management, restlessness, something. Still, he’s truly one of the game’s great coaches. One of the smartest, too.

First aired 2012

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