Former Laker coach, Harris, takes job at University of Oregon
Velaida Harris, the former girls basketball coach at Lake Oswego High School, recently ended a year-long search for a college hoops job. During that time, it seemed that Harris was as much the interviewer as she was the interviewee.
After stepping down as the Lakers' head coach last year, Harris decided to take her time before jumping into another job.
The rumor mill had her filling any one of a number of high school vacancies. But, after a successful run at Lincoln and a fourth-place finish at state her last year at Lake Oswego, Harris felt the time was right to move to the next level.
'I didn't leave Lake Oswego to coach college (ball) … but who wouldn't want to coach basketball all day?' Harris said recently.
However, college coaching jobs aren't always easy to come by, especially the good ones. So, Harris devised a one-year plan where she attended as many college practices as she could fit into her schedule during the 2006-07 season.
Nine college coaches in the Northwest were gracious enough to open their practices to Harris anytime she wanted to attend.
During that time, Harris learned a lot about coaching at the college level, and those coaches saw how dedicated Harris was about becoming the best college coach possible.
'It's hard to get in. That's why I spent a year looking,' she said.
Harris' unique job search eventually produced two solid offers.
She got to choose between being the head assistant for the Portland State women's team or being the director of basketball operations for the University of Oregon women's program.
It was a tough choice because PSU was offering the kind of hands-on job Harris was looking for. But she opted for the U of O position because of the school's high profile status even though the job entails little if any coaching.
Harris will spend most of her time handling the team's administrative duties - jobs that are typically divided between everyone on the staff at smaller schools.
One of her duties will entail handling all of the Ducks' travel plans, which includes a trip to Cancun, Mexico in December.
'I've got to make sure everyone has their passport, including myself,' Harris said.
The former Lakers coach said she sees her new job as part of a six-year process where she learns everything there is to know about college basketball.
By the end of that period, Harris hopes to be a head coach somewhere or the head assistant for a major Division I school. Oregon coach Bev Smith was well aware of Harris' intentions long before the job offer was extended to her.
'She knows my goals are to move along in this college basketball world,' Harris said of Smith. 'But Bev's contract is for a couple more years and I want to be here for that.'
Obviously, Harris could have shortened the process by accepting the Portland State offer.
She thinks she made the right choice by taking the Oregon offer instead.
'My hours (at Portland State) would have been out of this world, and I have three kids,' Harris said.
By accepting Smith and the Ducks' offer, Harris was able to make a rare jump from the high school ranks to the Pac-10, which is perennially one of the top college conferences in the nation.
'This is an exciting time in my life,' Harris said. '… And it's nice to be wanted.'