In her introduction as Auburn’s new women’s basketball coach Monday, Johnnie Harris outlined her vision for the program and said she was excited to join Tiger community.
“I definitely see potential in the program,” Harris said. “Auburn has a rich history, teams that have been in the Sweet 16, the Final Four, won a conference championship, tournament championship. (It’s a) family atmosphere.”
“There have been countless coaches that have reached out to me already. I’m going to fit. I really believe that what we are going to do here is special, and I think it will be something the fans will embrace.”
Harris comes from Texas, where she spent the past year as associate head coach to Vic Schaefer. She and Schaefer have worked side-by-side for 14 years, first as assistant coaches at Texas A&M under Gary Blair and then at Mississippi State, where she and Schaefer as head coach guided their team to two straight National Championship finals. Before their stint with the Aggies, they were assistants for two years at Arkansas with Blair.
Harris said Schaefer has been like a brother to her, and that she will bring elements of what they built together at Mississippi State over the last nine years to Auburn.
“I had a big hand in that and I’m very comfortable doing that,” Harris said. “It’s not just what I do, or what we do, it’s who we are. It’s something that we will definitely put into play….our style of play, definitely, but also embracing our fans and fan base and building a fan base. I thought that was one of the big things that we did, and that is important when you are building a program is to have that fan base.”
“My vision for this program is tough, hard-nosed, aggressive, basketball players,” she said. We’re going to bring it every day. That’ll take hard work.”
Harris said community service and building relationships with fans is also a priority, as is building a strong culture both on the team and around it.
“Our culture is going to be one of excitement. Our culture is going to be one of dignity, trust, and loyalty,” she said. “It’s going to be one of hard work. Education is going to be really important. Our expectations are going to be high. Education will be number one with us. Both on and off the court, we’re going to be a light in this community.”
In introducing Harris to her team and to the media, director of athletics Allen Greene said he was impressed with her values, her vision for the program and her knowledge of the game.
“She is soft-spoken,” he said. “Well at least maybe in this setting, she’ll be soft-spoken. Behind us on the court, I think it’s a whole different ball game. She’s someone who cares about people. Someone had asked the question, ‘What’s your favorite part of practice?’ You talked about 1-on-1’s because that’s a time you get to know someone, you get to develop them, and I thought that was a really cool answer.”
“You’ve been a beacon in the communities that you’ve served, which is awesome. The Auburn Family loves that. You’re a competitor…..We would like to find ourselves not only in the NCAA Tournament, but making deep runs. She knows the blueprint, having worked with a number of successful coaches, and our job is to collectively help her put some orange and blue tint on this blueprint and help make the young ladies in this audience….and the Auburn family very proud.”
Harris said she is up for scheduling a game against Schaefer at some point.
‘I’m not exactly sure, but hopefully we will meet somewhere down the line,” she said.