Del Harris

For the English squash player, see Del Harris (squash player). For the American psychic, see Miss Cleo.
Del Harris

Harris at the White House in February 2009 while a Chicago Bulls assistant coach
Texas Legends
Position Vice president
League NBA Development League
Personal information
Born (1937-06-18) June 18, 1937
Dale, Indiana
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Listed weight 200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
High school Plainfield (Plainfield, Indiana)
College Milligan (1955–1959)
NBA draft 1959 / Undrafted
Position Forward
Coaching career 1965–2012
Career history
As coach:
1965–1974 Earlham
1973–1975 Vaqueros de Bayamón
1975–1976 Utah Stars (assistant)
19761979 Houston Rockets (assistant)
19791983 Houston Rockets
1986–1987 Milwaukee Bucks (assistant)
19871991 Milwaukee Bucks
19941999 Los Angeles Lakers
20002007 Dallas Mavericks (assistant)
2008–2009 Chicago Bulls (assistant)
2009–2010 New Jersey Nets (assistant)
2011–2012 Texas Legends
Career highlights and awards

As player:

  • 'Little All-American' (Honorable Mention)

As coach:

Delmer William "Del" Harris (born June 18, 1937) is an American basketball coach who is currently the vice president of the Texas Legends, the NBA D-League affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. He served as a head coach for the NBA's Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the Legends. He was also an assistant coach for the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Houston Rockets.

Early life and college career

Harris is a 1955 graduate of Plainfield High School (Indiana) in Plainfield, Indiana. He was inducted into the first class of Plainfield High School's Hall of Fame.

Harris graduated from Milligan College in 1959 cum laude with a bachelor's degree in religious studies. In 1965, Harris earned a master's degree in history from Indiana University Bloomington.[1]

High school coach

He began his coaching career at the Junior High School level in Johnson City, Tennessee but is best known for his tenure in his native Indiana; in four years in the Indiana ranks he built a record of 54-15 over his last three seasons, winning two Conference titles and a Sectional title.

He coached at three different high schools in Indiana; the Roachdale Hawks, the Dale Golden Aces and the Spencer Cops; his greatest success came at Dale, as he led the Golden Aces to a 2-year record of 35-9 and a Pocket Athletic Conference title. He also coached the Dale baseball team to a PAC title and a record of 26-7. He moved to Spencer for the 1964–65 season where they had a 19-6 record, winning another Conference title and an IHSAA Sectional title but lost in the Regional finals to Bloomington. The following year he was hired by Earlham College.

College coach

Harris was coach at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana for nine seasons, building a record of 175-70 (.714) as he led the Quakers to three Conference (2 Hoosier Collegiate Conf. & 1 Hoosier-Buckeye Collegiate Conf) titles and two Top-12 rankings. His best seasons were 1967–68 when they were ranked 6th in the NAIA final polls with a 25-3 record, making him a finalist for NAIA national coach of the year, and in 1970–71, when the Quakers achieved a record of 24-5. In that year they won the HBCC and reached the National Tournament, losing in the 2nd round. He remains, today, as the Earlham coaching leader in wins and winning percentage. He led the Quakers to 15 conference or tournament titles during his tenure.[2]

Professional coach

Harris coached seven summers in the Superior League of Puerto Rico while at Earlham, winning three national titles while coaching against various ABA, NBA and NCAA coaches. After becoming acquainted with Utah Stars head coach Tom Nissalke, he was invited into the professional ranks in 1975 as an assistant coach for Nissalke at the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association. When that franchise folded, Nissalke and Harris were hired as head and assistant coach, respectively, for the NBA's Houston Rockets at the start of the 1976–77 season. They won the Central Division that year, Nissalke making Coach of the Year.

When Nissalke was let go by the club after the 1979 season, Harris was asked to take over head coaching duties for the 1979–80 season. Harris led the Rockets to the NBA Finals in the 1981 season, where they were defeated by the Boston Celtics four games to two in Larry Bird's first championship. Hall of Famer Moses Malone made Harris the Rockets' winningest coach in the first three years with 128 wins and three trips to the playoffs, but when Philadelphia acquired Malone in free agency, the Rockets sacrificed the season to get Ralph Sampson in the draft. Not signing any of their own free agents, the Rockets finished last and Harris was replaced with Bill Fitch.

Don Nelson hired Harris for the Milwaukee Bucks team, where he became head coach four years later when Nelson left for Golden State. A year later Harris was also named Vice President of Basketball Operations.

After his stint with the Bucks, Harris became head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, winning NBA Coach of the Year honors in 1994–95, winning 48 games a year removed from being in the NBA lottery. In his four full seasons the Lakers won more each successive season, following 48 wins with 53, 56 and 61. In his third season the Lakers acquired 18-year-old Kobe Bryant and 24-year-old Shaquille O'Neal. Despite being the youngest team in the league and O'Neal missing 53 games due to injuries those two seasons, the Lakers eliminated the 61-win Seattle SuperSonics in the playoffs before being eliminated by the Utah Jazz with Karl Malone and John Stockton in the 1997–98 season. The Lakers fired Harris after leading them to a 6–6 start at the beginning of the lockout-shortened 1998–99 season.

Harris was an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks from 2000 to 2007.[3]

On July 3, 2008, the Chicago Tribune reported that Harris agreed to become an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls along with former Charlotte Bobcats head coach Bernie Bickerstaff and longtime NBA assistant Bob Ociepka. Along with Bickerstaff and Ociepka, Harris was expected to help establish a veteran presence on the coaching staff and help rookie head coach Vinny Del Negro.[4] In June 2009, it was reported that Harris would step down as assistant coach to the Bulls, and retire after a career spanning 50 years.[5]

On November 30, 2009, after the New Jersey Nets had lost their first 18 games and removed Coach Lawrence Frank, GM Kiki Vandeweghe asked Harris to come help him as he took over the coaching reins. Harris stayed until the week before the All Star game and announced he would not continue on the rest of the season. He returned to his home in the Dallas area to be the General Manager of the Texas Legend of the NBA Development League, the Mavericks minor league affiliate.

On October 3, 2011, it was announced that Harris would take over as the head coach for the Dallas Mavericks' NBA Development League affiliate the Texas Legends. At age 74 he was the oldest head coach in the history of the NBA system. The following year he returned to being GM and Eddie Najera was named head coach. Currently Harris is the Vice President of the Legends.[6]


Harris coached seven seasons in Puerto Rico's National Superior League (1969–75), posting a 176-61 record and winning three national championships (1973–75). His club team, the Bayamón Vaqueros, won bronze in the FIBA Will Jones Cup in 1972 in São Paulo Brazil, the championships for World Club team. He also served as head coach of the National Team for the CentroBasket games in El Salvador in 1974, winning the first international gold in Puerto Rico's history. He also coached the team to a silver in the FIBA Copa do America X Europa in São Paulo, Brazil in 1974.

In 1994 he served as consultant for Canada and assisted head coach, Ken Shields, in the World Games in Toronto.

He was an assistant coach under Rudy Tomjanovich with the US national team in the 1998 FIBA World Championship, winning the bronze medal. The team was handicapped by only using college players as there was a lockout in the NBA.[7]

Harris also served as the first foreigner to become coach of the Chinese national men's team, where he coached NBA All-Star center Yao Ming and led China to a surprising upset victory over Serbia and Montenegro in the 2004 Athens Olympic basketball tournament.

In the fall of 2011, Harris assisted coach John Calipari with the Dominican Republic national team. They won bronze in 2011 FIBA Americas Championship in Mar del Plata, Argentina (the first major basketball medal in the Dominic Republic's history). In winning the bronze medal they qualified for the 2012 World Olympic qualifier in Caracas, Venezuela. They finished fourth, thus missing to qualify for the Olympics by one game in both years. They did win the gold medal at the CentroBasket Games held in Puerto Rico prior to the World Qualifier, beating the host time for the first time ever on their home court.

In 2010 he was awarded the Jerry Colangelo Award for Leadership and character on and off the court at the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. In 2014 he received the Coach John Wooden "Keys to Excellence" Award the NCAA Final Four in Dallas.

He is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the NAIA Basketball Hall of Fame as well as those of Milligan College and Earlham College.

Personal life

He has four sons (Larry, Alex, Stan and Dominic) and one daughter (Carey). All of his children played basketball at the collegiate level (Eastern New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico, University of North Texas, Dallas Baptist University, and Marquette University respectively). He is the father of former Bucks general manager Larry Harris.

Head coaching record


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Earlham Quakers (Independent) (1965–1966)
1965–66 Earlham 14–8
Earlham Quakers (Hoosier College Conference) (1966–1972)
1966–67 Earlham 15–9 6–6 4th
1967–68 Earlham 25–3 11–1 1st NAIA District 21 Playoffs
1968–69 Earlham 18–8 9–3 2nd NAIA District 21 Playoffs
1969–70 Earlham 22–8 10–2 2nd NAIA District 21 Playoffs
1970–71 Earlham 24–5 7–1 1st NAIA Second Round
1971–72 Earlham 21–9 7–1 1st NAIA District 21 Playoffs
Earlham Quakers (Hoosier–Buckeye College Conference) (1972–1974)
1972–73 Earlham 17–11 10–6 3rd NAIA District 21 Playoffs
1973–74 Earlham 19–9 10–6 3rd NAIA District 21 Playoffs
Earlham: 175–70 70–26
Total: 175–70

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L WL% Finish PG PW PL PWL% Result
HOU 1979–80 824141.5002nd in Central725.286 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
HOU 1980–81 824042.5612nd in Midwest21129.571 Lost in NBA Finals
HOU 1981–82 824636.5612nd in Midwest312.333 Lost in First Round
HOU 1982–83 821468.1716th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
MIL 1987–88 824240.5124th in Central523.400 Lost in First Round
MIL 1988–89 824933.5984th in Central936.333 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
MIL 1989–90 824438.5373rd in Central413.250 Lost in First Round
MIL 1990–91 824834.5853rd in Central303.000 Lost in First Round
MIL 1991–92 1789.471(resigned)
LAL 1994–95 824834.5853rd in Pacific1055.500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
LAL 1995–96 825329.6462nd in Pacific413.250 Lost in First Round
LAL 1996–97 825626.6832nd in Pacific945.444 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
LAL 1997–98 826121.7441st in Pacific1376.538 Lost in Conf. Finals
LAL 1998–99 1266.500(fired)
Career 1013556457.549 883850.432


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L WL% Finish PG PW PL PWL% Result
Texas Legends 2011–12 502426.4804th in Western Missed Playoffs
Career 502426.480


Harris was inducted into the Plainfield High School (Indiana) Hall of Fame, the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame,[8] and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.[3]


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