DUMAS — Four years ago, Johnny Hendrix knew his time as a head basketball coach would soon be coming to a close. Therefore, he set out to find a replacement worthy of taking over some day.
Now after 50 years in the business, Hendrix will turn over the reigns to Larry Harris, who has been Hendrix’s assistant for the past two seasons.
“I’m real excited to take over,” Harris said. “It is a wonderful opportunity. I have learned a lot from Coach Hendrix.”
Before joining Hendrix in 2012, Harris, 37, was the head coach at Drew Central, which has a long-standing rivalry with Dumas. While in high school, Harris played against Hendrix’s teams at Gould.
Gould has since consolidated with Dumas, where Hendrix has been the head coach for nine years. Together he and Harris have won 31 games in two seasons at Dumas.
“I feel like it is going to be a pretty easy transition,” Hendrix said of Harris’ new role. “Since day one, he has been more than just an assistant coach. We have worked pretty hand in hand, tossing ideas back and forth.”
Hendrix said he chose Harris because he respects him as a person and coach.
“It is a mutual respect,” Harris said. “In the two years we have been working together, I don’t think we have ever had any major problems.”
One philosophy that will carry over for Harris will be the importance of putting the student of “student-athlete” ahead of everything else.
“If you ask the kids, what their goal is or plan they will tell you, “NBA, NFL or MLB,” Harris said. “But I want them to have a back-up plan.
“It is like driving a car. If you were driving along the interstate and suddenly got a flat tire, you wouldn’t just abandon the car. … You would jack it up and replace it with the spare tire.”
Before being hired on at Drew Central, Harris played basketball for Arkansas-Monticello with dreams of moving on to the NBA. But it wasn’t long before he realized that averaging 23-25 points a game in high school doesn’t always translate to the same kind of success at the college level.
“I quickly learned how it difficult it would be to make it to the NBA,” Harris said. “So instead, I used my basketball talents for a free education instead.”
Drew Central hired Harris — who had no actual coaching experience — as an assistant in 2008. He led the Pirates to three state tournament berths in his three seasons as head coach.
The chance to coach his sons Ladarius, now a junior, and Quinatarius, now a senior, is one reason why Harris joined Hendrix in 2012. He often had to miss their games when he coached at Drew Central.
Hendrix said one reason he felt comfortable with having Harris take over as head coach was his enthusiasm and knowledge of the game.
“He’s knowledgeable,” Hendrix said. “He’s been around basketball all his life.
“He’s a great teacher and motivator.
“I just know he is going to do a good job. He’s got the drive that I had. I just know he is going to do well.”
Harris credited his knowledge to his mom, Glory Slater.
“My mom is the girls basketball coach here at Dumas and whenever she would introduce me, she would say, ‘This is Larry. He’s been my assistant coach for nearly 30 years.’”
Harris said he has spent most of his life inside a gym.
“I have always been involved and interested in basketball,” Harris said. “I would watch the NCAA Tournament and the NBA and join my mother on her scouting trips.”
Hendrix said now that he is retiring from the business, he wants to spend more time with his family.
“I have family all over,” Hendrix said. “From California, to Kansas City. So I’m going to be plenty busy.”
Hendrix just returned from a family reunion in Alabama on Sunday. He also plans to spend more time playing golf and fishing.
But Harris jokingly said he has other plans for him as well.
“Anytime he wants to come to a practice and help coach, he is more than welcome to,” Harris said. “There will always be a spot for him on my bench.”