By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater High looks to be using Shiloh Christian High School in Springdale, Ark., as a pipeline for coaching candidates.
The most recent coaching hire by Stillwater Public Schools from the Arkansas school is baseball coach Jimmy Harris, who will replace Tony Holt, who resigned his position unexpectedly in June. Harris, who was approved by the school board Tuesday night, is the second Shiloh Christian coach to relocate to Stillwater — joining SHS athletic director and football coach Tucker Barnard.
“I worked for coach Barnard at Shiloh and we worked well together. One of the things he got to see ... me work and do what I do with the baseball program over there, so he knows what to expect and what I do,” Harris said by phone Tuesday night from a baseball camp in Arkansas.
Harris comes in with quite the pedigree to take over a Pioneer baseball program that made the state tournament two years ago and hosted a regional last year.
He has been at Shiloh Christian for the past seven years, with most of his success coming recently. He led his program to four straight state championship games in Arkansas, winning three straight titles in the process between 2010 and 2012. His team ranked 59th nationally by Rivals High and 56th by Max Preps in 2010 and 67th by Max Preps in 2011.
“We had kind of four criteria that we set up as we started searching for our next coach and we just felt like he was hammering everyone one of these areas,” Barnard said. “We wanted a high-character individual with great leadership skills. ... We wanted a coach who was a proven winner. We felt like we were going to be able to find a guy who had previously been a head coach and had won at a high level, but we didn’t necessarily say it had to have (head) coaching experience.”
Harris, who has served as president of the Arkansas High School Baseball Coaches Association, was named the Diamond Sports/ABCA National High School Coach of the Year for 2012.
While he has had success at the Class 5A level in Arkansas, the appeal of 6A baseball in Oklahoma was too big a draw for Harris.
“I am really excited about being part of 6A Oklahoma baseball. Some of the best baseball programs in the country are in 6A in Oklahoma and I’m pretty excited about getting to be a part of that, competing against that and hopefully beating those guys,” the new Stillwater High baseball coach said.
Harris coached multiple players in his tenure that have gone on to compete at the collegiate level. He will inherit a SHS program that returns a core group from last year’s squad, including the likes of seniors Carson Teel, who was Stillwater’s ace pitcher, and slugger Jon Littell.
“The group they have is really talented. The coaches are really talented, too, and they all work hard,” Harris said. “Baseball is very important at Stillwater High School, and I understand that. So what I’m going to come do is just come in and add to that. It’s already in place, I’m just going to try to come and add some things to the program and hopefully we can win at a major level.”
Harris is an Oklahoma native, graduating from Broken Bow High School and is a graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State.
One of the key factors in the hiring process, according to Barnard, was the coach’s support of multi-sport athletes. At Shiloh, Harris in fact was a multi-sport coach, serving as a special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach for the football team on top of his head coaching duties for the baseball program.
Barnard said there is a possibility Harris may work with the football program on game nights, but working with the baseball program in the fall will be his main focus.
“I think the key as we’re looking at it is with the late start that he’s having and the expectations we in the baseball program is to make sure he can set up his program in the fall,” Barnard said. “Whatever happens with football, I’m not sure yet, but preparing things for the baseball program is his priority in the fall.”
His first priority will be visiting with the Pioneer players and coaches before preparing the fall workout schedule.
“I’m coming over Monday, actually. We’re ready to come right now,” Harris said. “I’m going to spend as much time as I can in Stillwater for the next couple of weeks before we get moved over. ... I’m ready right now. I’m ready to go, I’ve got things planned out and I’m excited to meet those guys and just fired up and ready to go.”