Jim Harris, the face of Ocean View boys' basketball and the man who gave the program its identity, died Sunday night after a struggle with kidney cancer. The only boys' basketball coach in the school's history was 67.
Harris' coaching career at Ocean View spanned 33 years. During that time, his teams won 19 league championships and three CIF Southern Section titles. He also coached the Ocean View girls' varsity program, which is now headed by his daughter, Kim Morris.
His son, Jimmy, was an All-CIF player for his father and later an assistant coach. He has been the varsity boys' co-head coach along with his father the past few years.
"Coach Harris is Ocean View basketball, even Ocean View High School, period," Seahawks Athletic Director Tim Walsh said Monday. "He created the basketball program, which today is looked at by so many as one of the best around. There was so much love around in whatever he did, whether it be basketball or at this school."
Harris' contributions stretched beyond the hardwood, Walsh and current Ocean View varsity players Conor Clifford and Josh Mishler said.
"He planted the palm trees that line the school along Warner Avenue," recalled Walsh, a 1994 Ocean View graduate who played for Harris for one year, was in the program for four years and said he attended youth basketball camps run by Harris. "He always wanted to help do things for this school in any way that he could.
"We're all hurting here now. It's been a real tough few weeks and a tough day [Monday]. He's had a huge impact on this school, and his presence will always be here."
Clifford, a three-year varsity player, said Harris taught him life lessons.
"He was like a father to me," said the all-league center, whose voice cracked before he broke down. "He basically taught me everything I know, all my values and such. I've known him since my brother (Takeshi Clifford) played for him.
"I'm just going to miss him not being around. I'd see him every morning, and he always asked me how I was and how my day was going. It's going to be tough not seeing him."
Mishler, a junior entering his second year as a guard on varsity, echoed Clifford's sentiments.
"He is one of my biggest inspirations," he said. "He was always there for me. When I was younger, he'd always come up to me and say, 'Hello,' and that has stayed with me.
"You could talk to him about anything, and he always had an open door. He always left the gym open, and that meant a lot to me, too. I could go in and work on my shot and get advice from him. He was like a second father to me."
Harris' boys' basketball teams went a combined 665-265. Two years ago, his Seahawks won the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA championship, the CIF State Division III Southern California regional title and reached the CIF State Division III championship game in Sacramento. The Seahawks lost, 62-55, to Sacred Heart Cathedral in the final.
"His thumbprint is everywhere, and when you think of those he's influenced, whether it be teaching or coaching — and for him, it was all about teaching — it's mind-boggling," former player Butch Fredlow said. "That tree spreads out everywhere."
Roger Holmes said he has known Harris since he was 13. Harris was Holmes' freshman basketball coach for the 1974-75 season at Fountain Valley High School, and Holmes said that year's Barons freshman team is still the only freshman team to go undefeated in school history.
Holmes coached the Ocean View boys' basketball freshman team in 1979-1980 and also was an assistant to the varsity team. In addition to going on to coach the junior varsity at Ocean View, Holmes went on to serve as head coach for the boys' basketball programs at Santa Margarita (1988-1992) and Marina (1994-2010) before taking the position at his alma mater in spring 2010.
"My year for him as a player on that freshman team was his second year of coaching," said Holmes, who last saw Harris before the start of the current school year. "We grew up in this thing (coaching) together. Our families became close, and we even went on family vacations together.
"He was more rigid than I was in terms of our coaching styles. His teams were known to be very tough defensively and pretty structured on the offensive end."
Walsh said a private family service will take place later this week and that a public celebration of Harris' life will be Nov. 13 in the Ocean View gymnasium.
Walsh also said the prestigious Tournament of Champions boys' basketball tournament, traditionally held the first week of December each year, will at some point be renamed the Jim Harris Memorial Tournament of Champions.
This year's tournament will go on as scheduled in December, Walsh said.