Johnnie Harris | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Johnnie Harris

Photo courtesy MSU

Photo courtesy MSU

Since COVID-19 shut down sporting events, we have had a shortage of sports news. Sure, Tom Brady left New England, but other than not much has happened.

That changed earlier this week when Mississippi State University women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer left the Bulldogs program to become the new head coach for women’s basketball for the University of Texas.

Schaefer has built a great program at Mississippi State and led the Bulldogs to back-to-back national title games. MSU needs to get the next head coaching hire right to continue to build on what coach Schaefer did for the program.

MSU is putting together a national search for the next head coach with athletic director John Cohen leading the way. Maybe, the Bulldogs do not have to look very far for the next head coach.

In fact, MSU could promote from within and come up with a highly qualified candidate. Current MSU associate head women’s basketball coach Johnnie Harris could be perfect to fill the position and keep building up the program.

The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association named Harris as the NCAA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year in 2018. She brings a strong background in recruiting and developing players.

Arriving with Schaefer in 2012, Harris helped build the MSU program into what it currently is as a budding national powerhouse. She helped develop players like Teaira McCowan, Anriel Howard, Chinwe Okorie, Martha Alwal and others.

McCowan ended up winning the Gillom Award given to the best women’s basketball player in the state of Mississippi in 2019. Her developing strong post players helped MSU become a championship contender.

Harris played at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Arkansas Baptist College. She began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in 1998 and stayed there until 2001 when she left as an assistant coach.

The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith became her next stop for the 2001-2003 seasons as an assistant coach. She spent the 2003-2004 season as an assistant coach at North Carolina State University.

It was back to Arkansas for the next three seasons as Harris became an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas from 2004-2007. She joined Scheafer at Texas A&M University for the 2007-2012 seasons.

She has a long coaching history and has been at several programs like Texas A&M that were successful. More importantly she knows the culture of Mississippi State women’s basketball and is a coach the players are already familiar with and there could be little time to get to know a new coach with the novel coronavirus keeping players at home.

Because of Scheafer, the MSU job is very desirable and will have a ton of interest. The Bulldogs are bringing back plenty of talent next season and will be one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference.

Unless Geno Auriemma is leaving the University of Connecticut, MSU should take a strong look at Harris becoming the next head coach. Because of a possible short start to the season, Harris makes even more sense.


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