By ERIC RUEB
PROVIDENCE – Larry Harris has been around college basketball long enough and when word came down Sunday that University of Rhode Island men’s basketball coach was being released from his contract and Harris and fellow assistant Pat Clarke wouldn’t have their contracts renewed, he wasn’t surprised.
“I was more disappointed than anything,” Harris said. “[Baron] has done a good job there and it’s the old analogy – when a guy is down let’s kick him.”
Harris, who lives in Narragansett, was at Rhode Island College Tuesday night watching daughters Raquel and Mercedes play for the Narragansett High School girls basketball team in their game against Moses Brown in the Division II quarterfinals.
And it’s Raquel, a senior, and Mercedes, a junior, who Harris said he is most concerned about.
“It’s tough on my family,” said Harris, who has a son, Simon, who is a graduate assistant for the men’s basketball team at the University of Dayton. “For me, this is my fifth university – Duquesne, Oregon State, Washington State, [North Carolina] State. This is my fifth university and it’s part of the job; you move. As your kids get older it gets tougher on them.”
This season was Harris’ first at URI. He came from NC State, where he served as an assistant for 15 years under Herb Sendek and Sidney Lowe; prior to that he was an assistant at Washington State for one season and Oregon State for two. He started his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Duquesne after playing at Pittsburgh University. In 1986 he was given a full-time position and he stayed until moving on to Oregon State in 1993.
In that time Harris has seen the sport grow into the big money business it is today; and that’s why as the Rams’ downward spiral continued, he knew that Baron’s time – and his – could be short.
“I had some suspicion that it would,” Harris said. “There were just something that told it was going to happen, or could happen.”
Harris said he wasn’t sure what his future held but didn’t speak like someone who had lost their job two days earlier.
“Doing this for a long time I know a lot of people, but I’m not sure just yet,” he said. “I’m trying to get a handle on what to do next.”
His decision will also play a factor in Division II girls basketball next season; while Raquel graduates this spring, Mercedes – who is getting looks from mid-major Division I schools – has one year of high school left and if she returned, the Mariners – who will also get 2010-11 leading scorer Maggie Salomone back after missing this season with a knee injury – will be the overwhelming favorite to win the D-II title.
Narragansett won Tuesday and plays for the Division II title Saturday at, coincidentally, URI, but a decision about what Mercedes Harris’ future is also something that is a long way from being decided.
“We’ll go into that later,” Larry Harris said.