Doug Harris, the only person in Arizona to win a state basketball championship as a player and a coach, has been dismissed as head of the Thunder program.
“I didn’t see it coming at all,” Harris said. “It was kind of a shock.”
Tempe Union High School District is on its spring break this week and neither Desert Vista principal Dr. Anna Battle nor athletic director TJ Snyder could be reached for comment.
But Harris, who has headed the program for the past seven seasons, said he was told on Thursday afternoon that the administration was looking to move in a “different direction.”
The Thunder won its first state boys basketball championship in 2008 after qualifying for the playoffs under Harris from 2004 through that season.
Harris also led Desert Vista to a title game in 2004 when the Thunder lost to Mesa, and reached the semifinals in 2006 and 2007.
But Desert Vista was 11-15 this season after going 8-17 following the championship season.
Harris will remain on the Desert Vista faculty as a social studies teacher.
“First and foremost I’m a teacher and that’s something I take very seriously,” Harris said. “I enjoy teaching, but at the same time there may be other possibilities in the future and I may have to go somewhere else.”
Harris is the second head coach in the 11-year history of the school. He was hired to replace Al Merino in the summer of 2003 after Merino resigned to work in the private sector.
“I truly appreciate the opportunity that Desert Vista gave me seven years ago to become a coach,” Harris added. “I was blessed. I had some great guys and it was a great ride, but now it’s time to begin a new chapter as it relates to coaching.”
Harris is a graduate of Tempe Corona del Sol High School and was named Gatorade Player of the Year in 1989 when he played for coach Sammy Duane on the Aztec’s state championship team.