Lake Clifton boys basketball coach Herman "Tree" Harried was conducting morning practice on Martin Luther King Jr. Day when a visitor stopped by.
It was one of his former players who just wanted to tell Harried that he was doing well with a good job and family. He also said 'Thanks.'
Harried, a Dunbar and Syracuse grad who went on to play professional basketball overseas, has piled up 256 wins in his 15 years as coach at Lake Clifton. He has guided his teams to two state championships, five region crowns and three Baltimore City titles. There's no question the competitive Harried enjoys the wins and hardware, but it's the visits, the phone calls and the text messages from his former players that make him the most proud.
After a 60-50 win over No. 9 Edmondson on Tuesday, the No. 11 Lakers are 11-2 this season and playing fundamentally-sound team ball.
As this week's Coachspeak guest, we asked Harried about this year's team, his coaching rewards, his work with USA Basketball (he was an asistant in the Under-17 national team that won gold at the World Championships in 2010) and the strong season Syracuse is enjoying.
What kind of noise can Lake Clifton make this season in the tough Baltimore City league?
My team needs to continue playing together. We don’t have any so-called "elite" players, but we have some solid players that people are starting to recognize, and now they’re looking at our record and seeing we’re winning some games. So they’re starting to open people eyes. It’s about team effort. We have to do everything as a team and we’re playing real strong as a group.
What have you learned from basketball which you have in turn taught your players?
Out of everything I’ve gotten from basketball, I’ve gotten more life lessons than anything else. I’ve gotten my work ethic from basketball, working with other people with different issues, from different cultures, nationalities and races. It taught me how to deal with people broadly and that is something that I don’t think can be taught, you have to go through it. And what I’ve done with that is carried it on as a teacher. I’m a coach, but I consider myself a teacher. I just happened to be a teacher by way of coaching, but I’m a teacher of life. I use coaching as a tool to get that point across. On my basketball team, I have 14 players and we have eight, maybe nine on the honor roll, if I’m not mistaken. Our goal is to have everybody on the honor roll. I’ve set those kind of goals for them, and I try to get them to reach a higher standard. I try to tell them basketball is just temporary, but academics, your work ethic and getting along with people, is lifelong. We teach that here.
What's it like watching some of your former players on TV, seeing them excel in college and professionally?
I feel as if I’ve been blessed to be allowed to do the things I’m doing to help young people get to that position. For me to turn on the TV and see Josh Selby with the Memphis Grizzlies, knowing some of his background where he's been up and down; to see Will and Antonio Barton at Memphis; to see Cleveland Melvin [at Depaul]… I don’t have any words for it. I know the things I’ve put them through to help get them there and that’s why they’ll text me and say thank you and I love you and I appreciate you for helping me be a better man. That’s the reward. Unfortunately, coaches are often just judged by what people see on the sideline. The sideline is only 32 minutes of the work that I do every day and those minutes can’t match the hours I put in every day – 12, 13 hours – and that’s for the kids. In sports, we’re judged on wins and losses. But it shouldn’t be about how many championships are won -- it should be how many lives have been touched. You can’t put a price tag on that. I feel this is my calling and that’s why I get up every day, to address my calling and that’s to teach
How rewarding has been you involvement with USA Basketball?
I did my two-year commitment and once you’re with them, you’re with them for life. They build a circle of college coaches and a circle of high school coaches, and when activities come up they work within that group. So with USA Basketball, I’ve done a Nike Hoop Summit, once as an assistant and then the following year I came back as a head coach. Then I did the USA Basketball World Games and before you know it, I was with the USA National Team – under-17s. They keep communication with you even when you’re not actually with an event. So there’s no telling what they may be calling to do next. It feels good. There’s a lot of very good coaches in Baltimore, and I’m the one who they selected out of this good group of coaches, so I think it says a lot about what they think of me as a coach and a person. That feels good.
How much are you enjoying Syracuse basketball at No. 1 in the country and undefeated?
It feels great. I haven’t seen a Syracuse team of this magnitude in some time. They’re deep – 10 to 12 people deep. A lot of time when you make substitutions, you may lose something from that sub in that it may not be quite as good as player he’s replacing. When they make substitutions, there is nothing lost and that is dangerous. And they’re also playing with great chemistry. With that kind of talent sometimes you see bickering, but you see none of that. Guys on the bench that know they could be out there playing more minutes are cheering. That type of chemistry is a blessing and you have to take advantage of that when you have it.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun