In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on building a program, staff management and motivation.
In just her first season Johnnie Harris helped Auburn double its win total from the previous season and pick up three victories over nationally ranked opponents. The second season was also a step in the right direction for the program as the team finished with a winning record for the first time since 2019 and advanced to the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Prior to her arrival at Auburn, Johnnie Harris was named the 2018 WBCA National Assistant Coach of the Year. She spent 16 years combined at Arkansas, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, and spent the 2020-21 season as the Associate Head Coach at the University of Texas. She helped Texas to an Elite Eight appearance during the 2020-21 season, and she worked alongside Longhorn head coach Vic Schaefer the previous 10 years assisting Mississippi State to a pair of NCAA Championship game appearances. She was a central part of Mississippi State’s success those eight seasons and is considered one of the nation’s top recruiters.
Prior to jumping to the Division I level, Harris made her mark on the junior college level as an assistant coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith, where she brought in key players who led the school to the NJCAA Final Four in 2004. In two seasons coaching under the legendary Louis Whorton, she inked the nation’s No. 1 class and a 34-8 record. UAFS’s 2002-03 team went 26-2 and won a share of the Bi-State Conference championship.
The Arkansas-Fort Smith position kept the Pine Bluff native in her home state after she started her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Little Rock. Her hard work at UALR earned her a promotion to a full-time assistant position in 2000.
Johnnie Harris Quotes:
“I think it starts with building your culture and getting the right kids and kids that fit your system. I’ve always been a part of teams that have gone on to play for championships. Most of the time, we didn’t even have an All American on our team. But we had kids that fit our system that were tough, hard-nosed, physical and aggressive. That’s always been a part of our DNA.”
“They [the players] have to understand that it is a process. And that doesn’t mean we’re settling for less . . it’s just part of the process of building a team. And they do have to understand that . . So, you just want to keep them going and continue to get better every day . . so they get that mindset of I’m going to do extra, I’m going to go the extra mile. That’s a big part of the process.”
“We just don’t let our man catch the ball where they want to catch it . . You want your opponents to do things that they normally don’t want to do. So, we practice with consequence. And I think that has helped us a lot. This team right here, they are really focused.”
“Our fans are embracing that style of play. So, when somebody take a charge, it’s as exciting as someone hitting a three. I just really feel like that that’s going to be our identity.”
“A lot of that starts with pressure on the ball. If you’re pressuring the ball, it’s hard to make a really easy backdoor pass, just like it’s hard to make a live pass to the post. So, our ball pressure is the most important thing.”
“We may do some zone too, but it’s going to be totally different, it’s still going to be very active trapping. We want to dictate tempo. We want to dictate what the action is going to be. So, we’re not going to sit back and just hope somebody misses and not guard somebody.”
“Being around . . all the coaches that I worked for, one of the common things was to be prepared
“I love scouting because, as an assistant, you get to see patterns of coaches. You’re scouting against some amazing coaches, and you get to see how they’re putting together their plays. You can see patterns. You just learn so much from scouting. I think that was one of the things that helped me the most, is being able to scout.”
“The first thing I thought about is, what can I do to help coach for today to help take something off his plate? Because as a head coach, you have so much and I don’t think people really understand how much you have. What can you do to take some of that off of your coach? I would say put yourself in that position.”
“They [assistant coaches] knew I didn’t just hire them because they were my former players, but because they’re good at what they do. They’re all good at different things, but they’re a lot of the same things. But the main thing is we share a philosophy. So, when you’re taking over new program, it wasn’t me having to teach my assistant coaches and my players. It was players who had been through it, who knew, who were tough, who were physical, who were aggressive, and they knew what that looked like.”
“I always tell our kids, if you’re not going to be disciplined off the court, there’s no way you can be disciplined on the court. I have a lot of kids that are disciplined, that are doing the right things, and that’s both on and off the court. I don’t have to coach effort, I don’t have to coach hard, I don’t have to coach attitude. I’m able to coach basketball. So that is something that is really welcomed in my third year.”
Johnnie Harris Breakdown:
1:00 – Experience as an Assistant Coach
3:00 – Celebrate Accomplishments
8:00 – Motivation
10:00 – Player Led
15:00 – Pressure Defense
17:30 – Recover to the the Inside
18:00 – Mismatches
20:30 – Denial Type Defense
22:30 – Inbound Attack
24:19 – 25:27 – Hoopalytics 2
27:00 – Reps
29:00 – Advocate for Yourself
31:00 – Advice to Current Assistants
38:30 – The Business
40:00 – Solution Thinking
43:00 – Layers of Evaluation
46:00 – Conclusion
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