By Fred L. Jones, Jr.
Eagle Staff Writer
Nathan E. Harris is the greatest high school basketball coach in the history of Oklahoma High School Basketball with (2) three-peat state titles, two bac-to-back state titles and, a host of state tournament appearances. Never say never but, I seriously doubt we will ever see another coach in Oklahoma high school basketball even come close to Nathan E. Harris.
At the age of 74, Harris passed Tuesday, April 30, 2019, after a long battle with illness; but in spite of his medical setbacks over the past few years, Coach Harris was still an intrical park of Booker T. Washington (BTW) athletics, always making the games at BTW and participating in alumni basketball activities, just this past February 8th being selected to the first class of the BTW “Ring of Honor”. The Hornet alumni not only have a banner in the basketball arena but, the field house on the BTW campus is fittingly named the “Nathan E. Harris Field House.”
The BTW/McLain alumni game scheduled for this weekend will feature a very special tribute to Coach Harris and his sons will be a part of the many alumnus from the Tulsa north community in attendance.
Hornet alumni and former student/athletes that grew-up under the leadership and direction of Coach Harris have been reflecting on his excellence in inspiring them all to higher heights in life with over five thousand social media post on Tuesday evening alone.
Junior Blount who played for Coach Harris on multiple state title teams stated: “The best high school coach ever in Tulsa…if it wasn’t for Coach Harris, I wouldn’t have been a Nike All-American as many before me and after me that he produced.”
Nancy McDonald BTW Activist and Community Leader stated: “We have loss one of BTW’s biggest boosters. His leadership on and off the basketball court for many young men was an incredible gift and his dedication to the game was always professional.”
Lee Mayberry, a former All-American at Tulsa Rogers High School and Assistant Girl’s Basketball Coach at Oral Roberts University stated: “Coach Harris has contributed so much to Booker T. Washington High School and the North Tulsa community. I certainly looked up to him because of his leadership on and off the court. His legacy will live on for so many of us who aspire to be great coaches and leaders. Blessings to the Harris family. May they feel the love and support from us all.”
BTW alumnus and Friendship Church Pastor Jamal Dyer stated: “Coach Harris was more than just a teacher. He was a leader, mentor, encourager and friend. He had the ability to make you laugh and still mean business. His impact will forever be etched in the hearts and memories of everyone he interacted with throughout the years. A legend has fallen asleep, but his legacy will live on forever.”
Shea Seals, 2019 BTW/McLain Alumni Basketball Game Honoree, Tulsa University Assistant Basketball Coach and Raymond S. McLain All-American alumnus stated: “Coach Harris was a great coach and even a better man. He was always willing to help me when I was at BTW. His knowledge and experiences were something that I leaned on quite often when I followed him. I’m grateful to have competed against him and I’m extremely grateful to have him as a mentor when I started my career in coaching.”
Tyrone Walker, owner of Wanda Js Next Generation on Greenwood, a McLain student, stated: “Coach Nate Harris was truly an icon in the community not only the lives he touched at Booker T. but, the lives that he touched at McLain, Central, Rogers, East Central, Edison, Memorial, Webster and Mason all the young men that played with him or that he played against him. The lasting impact of how to be a winner improved there lives by doing it the right way, not only to be athletes but to be outstanding men in their communities, that’s what he impacted on my life, how to be a winner, and him being a friend to my mother, father and uncles. That’s Coach Nate Harris, a true and proven winner.”
Melvin Gilliam played on Coach Harris state title teams and was also a part of the inaugural BTW “Ring of Honor” class, stated: “Coach Harris was more than a coach, he was a mentor, a teacher, a father figure, an overall GREAT man. He was the father that a lot of us didn’t have. I followed him to Edison and when he left to take the BTW job, I went with him and the rest was history. It was a privilege to be inducted into the inaugural class of the “Ring of Honor” alongside of him. I will miss my coach and my friend! Hornet for Life!
The life and ministry of the late Coach Nathan E. Harris is one that so many coaches can only dream about with countless victories and state championships, a host of All-American student athletes and so many NBA and NFL players have come from his coaching lineage.
We salute the life of Coach Harris and give “Honor Unto Whom Is Due.”