TAZEWELL, Va. — The football program at Tazewell went through a four-year period with four different head coaches.
J’me Harris hopes to stop the boys basketball carousel at 3.
“I am very excited about the opportunity,” Harris said. “I am the third coach in three years.”
Harris was chosen to replace William Lester at Tazewell on Nov. 10. He had replaced Lee Walker prior to last season.
‘It is very hard on the kids, but they have been very receptive to what we are trying to do,” Harris said. “We have got excellent effort out of them, but they have put in a difficult situation.
“If you are a junior here you have had three coaches in three years so it is very difficult for them, but I am very proud of their effort right now.”
It’s been a long dry spell for the Bulldogs, who finished 8-12 during Lester’s lone season. Walker had been at Tazewell the six previous years.
All have struggled to put a winning team on the floor.
“It has been about 10 years since they have had a winning record,” Harris said. “This group, if they continue to give the effort and work hard, they have the chance — and that is what we told them from day one — to be the first Tazewell team in 10 years to be over .500.”
Harris is a native of Tazewell, who was raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., earning a degree from Western Michigan. He returned to Southwest Virginia with his parents about 10 years ago, and is currently a special education teacher at Tazewell Middle School.
This is his first opportunity to coach at the varsity level.
“I have coached middle school football in the past,” said Harris, who will be assisted by Tazewell baseball coach Aaron Buchanan and Marshall Taylor. “I have coached a lot of their youth basketball and AAU and travel basketball teams.”
Tazewell, which will scrimmage Chilhowie today, will open its season with three games in next nights, beginning with the home opener next Tuesday with Graham. That should be a worthy test since the G-Men return everyone that was part of a 18-7 squad last season.
“The bar gets set early when we draw Graham in the first game,” Harris said.
That will be followed by visits to Fort Chiswell on Thursday and Bland County on Friday, along with December tournaments at Virginia High and George Wythe.
“I am very excited to get started, we scrimmage Chilhowie tomorrow and then on to Graham,” Harris said. “We are no where near where we need to be or where we would like to be.
“We are still putting in a lot of stuff, but when you get such a late start on things, you just have to go with what you can.”
Every coach brings their own system, and the Bulldogs under Harris will be no different. The 14-member Tazewell team — which includes Juwan Jordan, who averaged 16 points a game last season, will be aggressive on both sides of the court.
“Luckily I know most of the freshman group, I have worked with them in the past, but it is getting to know the sophomores and the juniors and the seniors,” Harris said. “Some of the kids I worked with in football so that is an easier transition knowing them, but it is a different style of play than what Coach Lester had.
“We are trying to be a little bit more uptempo so it is getting them to break those habits and we want to really stress being an aggressive defensive team.”
So far the players have been receptive to the changes, which will be player-friendly for anyone who likes to shoot the basketball.
“They have been exceptional kids to coach for our coaching staff,” Harris said. “We have got some good leadership on the team and they have made it an easy transition for us.”
As for his staying power, Harris hopes to follow in the footsteps of Shane Allen, who stopped the revolving door of gridiron coaches at the school.
“I plan on being here more than one year,” Harris said. “Our football program went through this and Coach Allen finally gave them some stability. We are just looking to follow in his footsteps and what he has done.
“They went to the playoffs this year and we just hope the fan base has the same patience with our program as they have had over there and understand that it is a growing process.”
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