For seven seasons, Terrence Harris has led the Pensacola High Tigers to elite status in the PNJ coverage area.
The Tigers have secured three-consecutive district titles and on Friday, will compete in the state semifinals for the first time since 2009.
But Harris’ passion for PHS and prep basketball in the city of Pensacola dates back much further than seven years.
“I’m just excited that I’ve had a chance to coach this (PHS) basketball program … and to be able to win district titles and coach in the state tournament,” Harris said. “I remember wanting that so badly when I was in high school. I think every high school kid wants to win a district championship and play in the state tournament. It’s just an honor.”
As a standout basketball player, Harris graduated from PHS in 1991 – but his days as an athlete in Pensacola were not finished.
After one year playing at Nicholls State University, Harris elected to come home and join the University of West Florida program in 1993 – the first year the program was restored after a nine-year absence.
Harris came in excited to help with re-establishing UWF’s program, and left after three seasons as one of the greatest Argonauts to ever play.
“I was born and raised right here in Pensacola,” Harris said.”I think I had a pretty good career at UWF, and got a chance to play basketball overseas a bit. They (UWF) resurrected their program and it happened to be just a bit after I had graduated from PHS.”
Harris’ presence was felt throughout the Gulf South Conference in the early 1990’s, as he still holds the No. 2 spot in UWF history for both total points (1,218) and rebounds (599).
Anthony Russell, who played four years and entered as a freshman during Harris’ senior year holds the No. 1 spot in both categories.
Harris frequently made opponents pay from the charity stripe, ranking tied for No. 3 (262 free throws made) in Argo history.
Defensively, Harris was an enforcer, whose 79 blocks rank him No. 4 all-time for UWF.
But don’t expect Harris to boast to his players about his achievements. According to PHS sophomore Shawndarius Cowart, it’s rare that Harris dwells on the past.
“I know he got a lot of buckets at UWF, and was a big rebounder too,” Cowart said. “He hadn’t brought it up (his playing days) until earlier this season. It was one day after practice, I think he wanted to remind us that he used to hold down the courts at PHS way before us.”
Today, Harris is consumed by PHS and the direction of his basketball team. During the season, he sees the competition as what it is — the next potential win for his Tigers.
But year round, and especially during off season, Harris wants to see prep basketball players throughout Pensacola succeed.
He seems to look at basketball as a key to tie the city together, and he has certainly felt it during his team’s playoff run.
“I think at this time of the year coaches, players and fans from around come out and support whoever is still playing,” Harris said. “When you get to this point, everyone wants to see you do well. I think up here in the Panhandle, we’ve done pretty good when it comes to the state tournament. Both boys and girls have done well in the past few years. I’m really glad to see the support we area getting from everyone this year.”