COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair announced the hiring of Johnnie Harris to his veteran coaching staff Tuesday.
Joining the reigning Big 12 Conference champions as an assistant coach is Harris who spent the last three seasons at the University of Arkansas under former head coach Susie Gardner. Known as one of the top recruiters in the country, Harris and the Arkansas coaching staff landed one of the largest and most decorated classes in program history in back-to-back seasons including JUCO All-American and All-SEC Second Team selection Laura Ervin and All-SEC Freshman Team member Donica Cosby. Last year, Harris helped sign one of the top 40 classes in the nation which included two Gatorade state players of the year in Whitney Zachariason of Arkansas and Morgan Boyd of Kansas. The Razorbacks also landed one of the top five point guards in the country in Shanita Arnold who was also a top 100 overall player ranked as high as No. 24 in the nation.
Prior to Arkansas, Harris served under Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Kay Yow at North Carolina State. There, Harris and the Wolfpack coaching staff signed junior college player of the year Tiffany Stansbury who currently plays in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx. Her first recruiting class at NC State was tabbed as one of the best in the nation, a trend that continued to follow at Arkansas. She joined Yow’s coaching staff during the 2003-04 season as the Wolfpack returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years. Posting a 17-15 overall record, Harris helped NC State sign one of the nation’s top 20 recruiting classes and secured a commitment from the No. 1 post player in the country in Gillian Goring who currently players for the Washington Mystics. Stansbury and Goring were rated among the top five high school prospects by numerous scouting services.
“Johnnie brings us tremendous experience from two of the top three women’s basketball conferences in the country,” Blair said. “She coached and recruited in both the SEC and ACC and was an assistant coach at one of the top junior colleges in the nation under head coach Louis Whorton at Arkansas-Fort Smith. She brings instant credibility in recruiting and networking with her numerous ties with high school and AAU coaches across the country. We have added one more piece of the puzzle with someone who knows our system well.”
During her time at UA-Fort Smith, Harris brought in key players to the perennial junior college powerhouse that led to the school’s most recent NJCAA Final Four appearance in 2004. Harris spent two seasons as the assistant coach at UAFS working with legendary head coach Louis Whorton and signed the No. 1 junior college class in the country. The Lady Lions went 34-8 during her two years on the JUCO level including an impressive 26-2 record in 2002-03 and a share of the Bi-State Conference title. Among her pupils was former Texas A&M standout Erica Roy (2004-06) as well as current WNBA center Gillian Goring.
“I am very excited and proud to join the Aggie Family,” Harris said. “Coach Blair and his staff are among the top in the country and I look forward to working with them and learning from them.”
Originally from Pine Bluff, Ark., Harris began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in 1998 earning a promotion to full-time assistant coach in 2000. Harris also coached AAU Basketball with the Arkansas Kamikaze.
A former student-athlete, Harris played at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, before transferring to Arkansas Baptist for her final two seasons. She is a graduate of Arkansas Baptist and is the proud mother of two children, Marcus and Kiera, a godson, Jason, and granddaughter, Samarah.
“It was an easy hire for us, but a very hard hire because of the tremendous applicants we had for the position,” Blair said. “We are happy to add Johnnie to our staff because it gives us one of the most veteran staffs in the Big 12 and in the country. This will be a key year for our program at Texas A&M. With a veteran ballclub returning next season, it was my goal to assemble a veteran coaching staff to guide our team.”
Harris replaces former Texas A&M assistant coach Amy Tennison who accepted a new position as women’s athletics coordinator and head girls basketball coach at Mansfield Legacy High School just outside of Dallas. Tennison, an all-conference performer at Sam Houston State, served on the Aggie staff for four seasons.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT COACH HARRIS …
NORTH CAROLINA STATE HEAD COACH AND HALL OF FAMER KAY YOW
“Coach Blair does a good job of hiring the right people for his staff. Johnnie has a passion for recruiting and working at the collegiate level. He (Blair) has hired someone who will continue to keep Texas A&M competing on a higher level for years to come.”
ARKANSAS-FORT SMITH HEAD COACH LOUIS WHORTON
“Johnnie and I have become very close friends through the years. She has a real knack with communicating with young people and her communication skills are tremendous. She is a natural-born recruiter and you won’t find anybody else who works harder at recruiting. She enjoys the chase of it and cherishes it. She is very knowledgeable about basketball and is tremendous with working with players one-on-one. I could not have been more tickled with her hiring at Texas A&M. I have known Coach Blair for a very long time and he is very loyal to his staff and players more than any other coach that I know. She has the opportunity to learn about the X’s and O’s from him and it’s a great fit for the two of them together.”
FORMER ARKANSAS HEAD COACH SUSIE GARDNER
“Johnnie recruits the type of student-athlete Coach Blair likes to coach. Her recruiting style will fit the program’s recruiting style well. You don’t have to leave the state of Texas to build a good team, but she brings extensive recruiting ties to neighboring states to the table. On the court, her strength is working with perimeter players and she is most comfortable when coaching one-on-one in the gym. Texas A&M has been very successful as a coaching staff and she will be a great addition.”
KELVIN POWELL, PREP BASKETBALL ANALYST/NATIONAL TALENT SCOUT/ROUNDBALL, INC. (McDonald’s All-American Selection Committee Member)
“Coach Harris is one of the nation’s top assistant basketball coaches. She’s a dedicated recruiter with an unmatched work ethic. She will be a valuable asset to the Texas A&M women’s basketball program. Coach Blair has hit a grand slam with this hire.”
FORMER TEXAS A&M WOMEN’S BASKETBALL STANDOUT ERICA ROY
“She is very personable and will bring a lot of enthusiasm to the program. She is a fun coach, but she is serious at the same time and is going to make you work. She is always willing to help you out and give you a lot of pointers to improve your game.”