Longtime Tulsa Washington Basketball Coach Out At End Of Season

Saturday, December 9th 2006, 2:55 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Nate Harris, who has guided Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa to 10 state high school boys basketball championships, will not coach the Hornets after this season, the school district said Friday.

Harris, 59, had been suspended with pay since December 4th and had not previously indicated he would be leaving his post. The announcement Friday came after a meeting between Harris, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Michael Zolkoski and school principal Debi Boyles.

Harris will resume his coaching and teaching duties Monday at Washington. He could not be reached for comment Friday after the announcement.

``Dr. Boyles feels it is in the best interest of this season's players, the school climate and the community for coach Harris to finish his illustrious career by completing the season,'' the press release said.

Harris' career record is 632-239, including a 1-1 mark this season. He and Varryl Franklin, the longtime boys coach at Millwood High School in Oklahoma City, are tied atop the state list of most state basketball championships won as a coach.

Harris, a 1965 graduate of Booker T. Washington, played on Oral Roberts University's first basketball team. He has coached in the Tulsa public-school system since 1973, and when he was named Mason High School's head coach in 1975, he became the first black head coach in a boys revenue sport at a predominantly white high school in the Tulsa Public Schools system.

He later coached at Edison High School before moving to Booker T. Washington in July 1982. Under Harris, the Hornets won four straight titles from 1984 to 1987 and three straight from 1995 to 1997, as well as crowns in 1999, 2001 and 2002. But the Hornets missed the state tournament last season for the first time since 1991.

On Monday, the Tulsa school board had set a January 11th due-process hearing to consider Zolkoski's recommendation that Harris be fired. No reason was given for that action.

The Tulsa World, citing documents obtained by The Oklahoma Eagle, a weekly Tulsa newspaper, reported that Harris had been suspended for ignoring a directive not to receive apparel or clothing without prior administrative approval.