Buck Harris says Jones County has the basketball talent to be a big winner, and he pledged to see that happens with a lot of hard work and a big dose of tough love.
“My expectations are high. I’m going to work your sons hard and expect a lot from them. But if you work with me, we’ll get a lot done,” Harris told those who attended a meet and greet session last Thursday when he was introduced as the new boys’ basketball coach at Jones County.
Harris has been hired to replace Dennis Woolfolk, who has decided to move into full time administration as an assistant principal at the high school after eight years as basketball coach at his alma mater.
“You hear about win-win situations, and this is one of them,” Jones County Superintendent Charles Gibson said in welcoming Harris. “It is a win to have Dennis Woolfolk want to increase his investment into the lives of our community’s young people by being an assistant principal here. And it is a win to get a coach with the credentials and character of Buck Harris to be our new basketball coach. It couldn’t have worked out better.”
Harris, who is married to Jones County girls’ basketball coach ChoRhonda Gwaltney-Harris, comes to Jones County after four years at Baldwin High. Before that, the Augusta native coached at Laney High for five years, the last two as head coach.
He has four region titles in his six years as a high school head coach and has coached three of his teams to the state final four. His overall record is 123-49.
Harris, who played in junior college and at Augusta State College, was a college assistant at his alma mater and at Campbell before moving to the high school ranks.
“Ten years ago I was out of a job, divorced and the single father of three boys. But I’m a man of faith. I prayed and came up with a plan,” Harris said. “I wanted to coach high school, but in a one-school county. I thought I was getting that when I went to Baldwin. But the situation here is much better.
“For one thing, I’m married to the best coach in Georgia, and she’s already here. You call her Coach G, but I call her baby. My oldest two sons are men now. My third son, David, is an eighth-grader and will be here with us next year. And we have a new son, Manny. Life is good.
“There is a great basketball tradition here. Coach Woolfolk has done a great job building a strong foundation, and I just want to keep making it better.”
High expectations and the determination to meet them are the key, he said.
“I expect to have a team with high character and low maintenance. I will scream and get loud, but it will not be personal. It will be business, working to get the best out of each player,” Harris said. “Just remember that in the end, I’ll love them, but it will be tough love, very tough.
“They probably won’t like me much to start with, but the ones who stick with it will love playing for me.
“I have a passion for basketball. I love this game,” he added. “Guys who play for me need to understand that. If you are just out there for something to do, then you need to find a different hobby. But if you want to play winning basketball and get better, and you are willing to work and put the team ahead of yourself, then this is where you need to be.
“If you want to get to the next level, for basketball to be your way to get a college education, then we can work to make that happen. And we can also win a lot of games along the way.”
Harris said he was able to observe the Greyhounds while coming to watch his wife coach over the last two seasons and was impressed with the potential. He was on spring break at Baldwin last week and spent the time at Jones County getting to know the returning players better.
“You’ve got good kids here. I’m looking forward to getting to know them better and working with them. I know some of them will try me. That’s OK if we butt heads. Just know that I will win when we do,” Harris said.
“We’re going to do things the right way. I work on Lombardi time – 15 minutes early to everything. If you get to practice five minutes early, you’re late.
“We have expectations. You’re going to respect your parents, your teachers and your teammates. You’re going to be on time. You’re going to pull your pants up. You’re going to play defense, and you’re going to play hard. It’s all non-negotiable.
“And we’re going to win.”