Basketball coach pushes team forward

Eugene Harris, the new head coach of Florida A&M University men’s basketball has a plan for the Rattlers.

As the former University of Alabama assistant coach presides over his afternoon practice, he has made one thing clear- if the team doesn’t do anything else, it will play hard.

“Don’t run from the contact. Stop being so soft,” Harris commands during practice. This is one of the many chides that is regularly relayed during practice.

“It’s all about getting after them and making them play hard,” Harris said of his coaching philosophy. “They understand that they need to not only play hard but play physical.”

Harris was named as the Rattlers head coaching in September on the cusp of former head coach Mike Gillespie’s’ firing. Gillespie was convicted of stalking charges in May and was fired in August.

“They [basketball team] were without coach for a few months,” Harris said.

Harris said that since accepting the head coaching position, obstacles have been plentiful. He said the lack of practice time coupled with the team’s youth could prove to be major stumbling blocks.

“We have to restore and rebuild,” Harris said. “We lost four seniors, and two of our recruits weren’t eligible academically. So almost like they didn’t recruit anyone last year.”

Even after Harris was hired, the team was faced with the task of replacing starting seniors Rome Sanders, Brian Greene, and Darius Glover.

Senior center Akini Adkins said the time in which the team was without a head coach this summer put them at a disadvantage coming into the season.

“During the summer we didn’t have access to the gym for individual workouts, and it was basically total chaos,” Adkins said.

Without official leadership or a practice schedule, Adkins said much of the team came into camp out of shape.

“With so many distractions and no leadership it was starting to become a disaster'” Adkins said. “It was like for a while we didn’t even have a team.”

With opening day less then three weeks away, the team still has a cavity to plug.  Harris still has no assistant coaches.

“FAMU has a system of hiring assistant coaches like no other in the country,” Harris said. “Normally I would be able to hire who I wanted, but that hasn’t been the case.”

Harris has been faced with the task of implementing a new game plan from those employed by Gillespie.

“They are total opposites,” said senior guard Leslie Robinson comparing his old and new coach. “I like the new system, but it just takes some getting used to.”

Harris uses a man-to-man defense, as opposed to Gillespie’s zone scheme. Offensively Harris will utilize a spread offense, the direct opposite of Gillespie set offense.

The two share contrasting personalities as well. Gillespie’s intense, and occasionally coarse coaching style will be replaced with Harris’ unruffled composure.

“I’m never really been a curser or a yeller,” Harris said. “I treat them like men and they respond.”

No matter what the game plan is, Harris has developed his cornerstone philosophy with his players.

“Our main goal is to give it all we have.” Adkins said. “When we are playing hard, even if we lose, we won’t question ourselves.”