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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Conversation with Tennessee Assistant Coach Jon Harris

The high school I cover, Madison Prep Academy, advanced to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association semifinal round with a thrilling win over Hornbeck High School on Tuesday night. Jarell Martin, Madison Prep’s star player, had a few eyes upon him in the audience. While Tennessee assistant John Harris is not permitted, by NCAA rules, to discuss recruiting, I doubt his wife was out of town, there was nothing on TV, and he decided to drop in to Baton Rouge to watch a little high school basketball.

I had an opportunity to speak with Coach Harris, whose Volunteers play LSU in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center tonight. I stuck to questions about Tennessee and the SEC so nobody would get into trouble! Here is what he had to say.

Tennessee Assistant Coach Jon Harris 1
The Daily Hat Trick (TDHT): I am here with University of Tennessee Assistant Coach Jon Harris. Coach, thank you for visiting (and) looking at these fine students in Louisiana here tonight. I know you guys have LSU tomorrow at the PMAC. Big game…. Tell me what’s going through the minds of the Tennessee players right now as you guys are battling really hard for positioning in the (SEC) Tournament.

Jon Harris: We’re just trying to stay the course, man. Taking this thing…one game at a time. LSU is playing some really good basketball right now.

TDHT: You guys had some ups and downs this year. A while ago, people in Baton Rouge (sports media) were saying (that LSU could) write this Tennessee game off as a loss. And now, with the run they’ve made lately, it looks like it’s going to be a real battle. What do you think are going to be the keys for your team in tomorrow’s game?

Harris: You know, again, just staying consistent, man. Playing together…playing our defense…working the ball around trying to control the tempo.

TDHT: In the SEC, who do you think, besides the obvious, Kentucky, are going to be the other real threats to the Vols in the SEC Tournament?

Harris: (scoffs) We’re fighting for our lives, man. You know, like I said, taking this thing one game at a time. Every game in this league is going to be a dogfight.

TDHT: After what happened to (fellow SEC school) Alabama last year, going 12-4 in the league (and being excluded from the NCAA Tournament), would it be fair to say that you guys are feeling a little “bubbly” right now?

Harris: You know, again, that’s something that’s out of our control, man. We’re just trying to do what we can control and play our game and win the games we can win and see what happens.

TDHT: I appreciate you coming down to visit and I hope that you enjoyed your stay here and this game tonight.

Harris: Appreciate it.

I have had the privilege of meeting a number of coaches in major college basketball while covering Madison Prep Academy. Some coaches are very open and willing to talk basketball. Some keep their thoughts closer to the vest. I respect that. They have a job to do and their programs should come first.

Coach Harris clearly kept his thoughts close to the vest. But what he did reveal through his tone of voice, body language, and verbiage is that his Volunteers, while talented, were streaky and as a result of the losing portions of those streaks, his team has its back against the wall for an NCAA Tournament berth. Every game, including tomorrow’s game against my LSU Tigers, will be critical to Tennessee’s survival into March. The Daily Hat Trick is very appreciative for Coach Harris’ time and interest in our athletes here in Louisiana.

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