Title even more special as coach - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Title even more special as coach

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Posted: Monday, March 3, 2008 11:15 pm | Updated: 11:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Doug Harris tried to tell them how it felt. But doing was more effective than telling. Now they know.

So while the Phoenix Desert Vista boys basketball team was clinging to its first state basketball championship trophy after beating Phoenix St. Mary's, 63-50, Friday at Jobing.Com Arena, the Thunder's coach took a moment to reflect back 19 years, when he touched that golden basketball for the first time.

As a high school junior, Harris was a key player on the 1989 Tempe Corona del Sol state championship team.

Last weekend, he held the trophy again, possibly as the only person in recent state history to win the championship as a coach and a player.

"I don't know if it's ever happened before," Harris said. "That's pretty special."

Harris said coaching a team to a state championship trumps winning as a player.

"To win as a player is special," he said, "but it's more rewarding for me to win as a coach and be blessed to be a part of it with these young men."

That championship Corona team, coached by the legendary Sammy Duane, beat Glendale Apollo, 88-85, for the title when the game was played at the Arizona State University Activity Center, now called Wells Fargo Arena.

Harris has been to the show four times, twice as a player with Corona, which lost the 1990 championship in his senior year to Scottsdale Saguaro, and now two more times as a coach with the Thunder.

Since he took over the Desert Vista program after Al Merino stepped down to enter private business in 2004, Harris has tried to motivate his teams by telling them what it feels like to win it all.

"It was very surreal," said Harris who went on to earn All-West Coast Conference honors as a college player at the University of San Diego. "As a player you really don't understand it. It doesn't hit you for months or even years.

"I don't take anything for granted. I really value our trips here because it's so hard to get here, let alone win this thing."

Desert Vista almost didn't get Harris.

When Duane retired after the 2003 season, the Corona job was up for grabs. Harris and his former Corona teammate, Sam Duane Jr., applied, and Duane Jr. got the job.

But when Merino stepped down at the same time, Harris had his shot.

"The ultimate goal for a player and a coach is to win the big one," Harris said. "It validates the program to get that state championship. That was my personal goal when I took the job."

Winning the state championship has put Desert Vista among the state's elite, but from now on, any title the Thunder win will always be linked to this season.

"This was the first one in the school's history," Harris added. "There is only one first and these guys are part of history now. I'll never forget this win and these guys."

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