Wheeling native Harris writing a new chapter in Florida
WHEELING — It was time for a new challenge.
D.P. Harris authored a hall of fame coaching career at St. Vincent College. The Wheeling Park grad served as head men’s hoop coach for the Latrobe, Pa.,-based school for the past 16 years with impressive results.
He directed St. Vincent to a sparkling 318-126 record and four Presidents’ Athletic Conference championships to go with four NCAA Tournament berths. That success landed Harris into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
Harris elevated St. Vincent basketball to the point where the Bearcats were perennial winners. However, the former Ohio University Eastern hoopster harbored bigger dreams, resulting in his decision to leave the Benedectine Monk-run school after last season and head south.
Harris accepted the head men’s coaching position at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Fl., in March. St. Thomas is an NAIA D-II institution.
“I have a dream to be a D-I coach like Skip Prosser, Jim O’Brien and the Wojcik brothers for example. The Ohio Valley produces good coaches,” Harris said. “I am not in their category but that is my goal. To try and make that happen, I knew I had to go to a different part of the country. This is the right place.
“St. Thomas is the fastest growing university in Florida and one of the fastest in the nation. It is fairly new and has great facilities. It was established in 1963,” he added. “We have just started a football program here and we have a law school. St. Thomas is a diamond in the rough.”
Harris, age 49, has wasted no time weaving his coaching expertise in the Sunshine State. St. Thomas won just 10 games total last season. The Bobcats head into weekend play with an 11-4 record.
“When I got the job, I had about only 30 days to recruit. I was fortunate that there were some good remaining players,” Harris said. “I was also able to attract four D-I transfers, including one from the University of Minnesota. Since we are NAIA D-II we offer scholarships. That wasn’t the case at St. Vincent (D-III).
“The St. Thomas administration and president have been very supportive. We are in one of the top small-college conferences (The Sun Conference) in the country,” he continued. “It is like the old West Virginia Conference. It’s a grind every night and tough to win on the road.”
St. Thomas has 10 more regular-season games in that grind. Harris is confident his charges will come through in fine fashion.
“I think our guys are optimistic. I am not a patient guy. I did not come here to finish second,” the 1989 Wheeling Park grad said. “We want to knock on the door of the upper echelon in our conference and make them uncomfortable, and we have. We want to finish in the top three of our conference and make the national tournament.”
Harris, who also serves as assistant athletic director at St. Thomas, was twice named the Presidents’ Athletic Coach of the Year while at Saint Vincent: 2015 and 2019.
“I spent 23 years in Wheeling and 24 in Latrobe, Pa. I feel the same about both…places where I found myself as a coach and where I found my moral compass,” Harris said. “St. Vincent was nothing but wonderful. My relations with the Benedictine Monks was outstanding. I was around so many outstanding people. It was not hard to be successful.”
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