October 5, 2010
Bill Harris Q & A: "Basketball in India is a goldmine waiting to be developed"
A little more than a week ago, former Wheaton college basketball coach William (Bill) Harris was appointed as the head coach of the Indian Senior Men's Basketball team for the upcoming Asian Games. Harris is currently in Chennai working with the select squad to prepare them for the tournament to be held in Guangzhou (China) in from November 12-27.
Harris has over 30 years of experience as a head coach in the game of basketball across several institutions in the US. He retired from his position from the D-3 Wheaton College in 2009 after 18 successful years.
Before he got a chance to head down to Chennai and meet his team, I got the opportunity to converse with Harris about his decision to come to India, his coaching style, and his vision for basketball in India.
Hoopistani: What inspired you to return to coaching? How did you choose India?
Harris: When I didn't sign a new contract with Wheaton, I hadn't thought to myself that I am retiring from basketball. I love coaching and I love competition - I have a fire in my belly which made me return to the game.
Basketball is an exciting sport - I missed the feeling of walking into a loud arena and being on the sidelines directing the games.
I was initially not aware that there was an opening in the head coach position here. I was motivated to take up this challenge by the NBA and [Director of Basketball Operations-NBA India] Troy Justice who helped me in making this decision. The needs of the Senior Men's team have been described to me as the ones that fill my skill-set. I will be bringing discipline and am known for being a teacher of defensive intensity.
Hoopistani: India is a drastically different environment from your previous coaching jobs. How have you prepared for the challenges you will face here?
Harris: Soon after I accepted this position, I met a number of coaches to get their ideas and suggestions about this assignment over the last month. I have been developing practice plans, too. Facilities are different here - I have learnt that I will have to adjust to all the other things related to organising basketball practicing here, outside of just the coaching.
Hoopistani: What will be your approach when working with the Indian team?
Harris: I will take the first few days to evaluate the talent that I am working with. I want to find the most inspired and the hungriest players. I want to find men who want to compete and want to become better. I will be looking for intensity as well as talent.
We will probably be spending more time dealing with the defensive aspects of the game. One of the reasons I was hired for this job was to implement an intense, team-oriented defensive system. As I coach, I am able to see defensive intangibles that a fan doesn't see. I am looking forward to the challenge of helping this team get better.
Hoopistani: What will be the team's expectations for the Asian Games?
Harris: I'm a blank slate with the team right now. I do not have any result expectations from this team when we go out to the Asian Games. But by the end of my time here, I do expect to have a team that compete as hard as they possibly can. Most importantly, they must understand that basketball is a team sport, and individual recognition will come with team success.
India should understand that the name 'India' on their jersey is important, and not the individual names.
Hoopistani: What is your vision for basketball in India?
Harris: I hope I will be able to help build on the foundation that has been built by the BFI and the NBA in the development of the basketball programme here. Rome wasn't built in a day - we have to lay the stepping stones to our plans first.
Why shouldn't India be amongst the world's elite in 20 years? Why can't India's youth grow up to become great players? Why can't the Indian people get a chance to watch one of their own playing in the NBA? It would be my dream to watch India play the USA in the Olympic gold medal game one day and wonder who to root for!
30 years ago, Americans were very poor in soccer and went through some growing pains. We lay the right foundations then and are seeing the results now. The same thing can happen with basketball here.
This country has a large population with a lot of potential and untapped resources. Basketball in India is a goldmine waiting to be developed. It will be a progress that will take some time, but the future is bright and I'm honoured to be a part of this movement.