Auburn introduces Johnnie Harris as new Women’s Basketball Coach
AUBURN, Ala.—Johnnie Harris, a long-time Southeastern Conference assistant and 2018 WBCA National Assistant Coach of the Year, has been named the Auburn women’s head basketball coach, Director of Athletics Allen Greene announced Saturday. Harris, who spent 16 years combined at Arkansas, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, spent the last season as the Associate Head Coach at the University of Texas.
Harris, who helped Texas to an Elite Eight appearance this season, worked alongside Longhorn head coach Vic Schaefer the past 10 years assisting Mississippi State to a pair of NCAA Championship game appearances. She was a central part of Mississippi State’s success those eight seasons and is considered one of the nation’s top recruiters.
“We are thrilled to welcome Johnnie Harris as the next head coach of the Auburn women’s basketball program,” Greene said. “Her experience helping build national championship caliber teams is incredible and her ability to recruit elite players is evident by the success of the programs she has worked with. Every coach and program strive to win championships and Johnnie has worked with that blueprint, particularly in the SEC. What impressed me most throughout this process was her strong relationships with the student-athletes she recruited and coached – she’s a developer of talent on the court and in life. Everyone speaks to her incredible work ethic, drive and character, which is required to be successful at the highest level. We are delighted to welcome Johnnie to the Auburn family.”
Harris helped lead Mississippi State to a 221-62 [.781] record and five NCAA Tournament berths, including NCAA Championship Game appearances in 2017 and 2018. During that time, the Bulldogs also won the program’s first Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and SEC Tournament Championship.
Harris’ reputation as a tireless recruiter grew as she played an integral role in inking some of the top signing classes in Mississippi State history, including the 2013 class that achieved 111 wins and the 2014 class that tallied a school-record 126 victories. In the fall of 2018, the Bulldogs signed the top-ranked class in program history with a No. 6 national ranking by espnW Hoop Gurlz.
“First, I want to thank God for blessing me with this amazing opportunity. I am excited and honored to join the Auburn Family and be part of a program with such a storied tradition,” Harris said. “I want to thank Dr. Jay Gogue, Allen Greene, Monique Holland and the search committee for the opportunity to lead the Auburn women’s basketball program and be part of a community that embraces its university and its athletic program with such enthusiasm. It is humbling and exciting to join an athletic program that is as welcoming, passionate and committed to success as Auburn, and I can’t wait to start building this program to be among the best in the Southeastern Conference.”
Harris’ pupils in the post were some of the best in Mississippi State school history, led by Teaira McCowan, who Harris mentored during McCowan’s record-setting junior and senior campaigns from 2017-19. The 2019 SEC Player of the Year and a consensus First-Team All-American, McCowan finished her career as Mississippi State’s leader in rebounds and field-goal percentage, while ranking second in blocks and fourth in points and field-goals made.
The individual development McCowan showed during Mississippi State’s run to a second consecutive national title game caught the attention of the coaching community, as Harris was tabbed the WBCA National Assistant Coach of the Year for the 2017-18 season.
In 2018-19, Harris helped transfer forward Anriel Howard combine with McCowan to create one of the best front courts in the country. In her lone season with the Bulldogs, Howard earned first-team All-SEC recognition by the AP and league coaches after averaging 16.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Both McCowan [No. 3, Indiana Fever] and Howard [No. 24, Seattle Storm] were selected in the 2019 WNBA Draft.
Another Harris product, Chinwe Okorie, was an integral part of the Bulldogs’ runs to the Final Four and 2016 Sweet 16 and finished her MSU career sixth in program annals in field-goal percentage, shooting 52.1 percent over 109 games. She raised her scoring average and field goal percentage each season of her three-year career, capped by her 7.5 ppg average on 56.4 percent shooting as a senior.
Harris’ pupil, Martha Alwal, helped the Bulldogs make history in 2014-15 with their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Under Harris’ guidance, Alwal developed into one of the nation’s top centers, earning First Team All-SEC and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior. She also claimed a pair of second-team honors, three-straight SEC All-Defensive Team accolades and won the Gillom Trophy. Three seasons Alwal become the second player in SEC history to lead the league in blocks four-straight years and just the third to claim 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 300 blocks for her career.
Harris helped guide Texas A&M to four Sweet 16 appearances in her five seasons, including the program’s first national championship in 2010-11. During her tenure with the Aggies, Harris helped sign and mentor junior college All-Americans Danielle Adams and Tanisha Smith.
Adams earned MVP of the 2011 Final Four before being selected with the 20th pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft by the San Antonio Silver Stars. Adams was tabbed to the league’s all-star game in her inaugural season. Smith earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and conference all-tournament honors in 2009. The Seattle Storm selected Smith with the 22nd pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft.
Harris’ recruiting ability was crucial in building the Aggies into an annual championship contender and their signing classes annually rated in the top 20 nationally.
Harris assisted the Aggies to land the nation’s No. 2 class in her final season in College Station. That class included a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans in Jordan Jones and Courtney Williams. Texas A&M’s 2010 class, which included McDonald’s All-American and the nation’s top post player, Karla Gilbert, rated third nationally. The two years prior she helped notch the nation’s fifth- and sixth-rated classes. Harris played a key role in signing the major players in Texas A&M’s national championship team that claimed a school-best 33 victories.
Prior to her stop in College Station, Harris spent three seasons at Arkansas, landing some of the Lady Razorbacks’ top recruiting classes in program history. She signed Laura Ervin, a junior college All-American who went on to garner Second Team All-SEC accolades, as well as Freshman All-SEC selection Donica Cosby.
In 2007, she inked Gatorade state players of the year Whitney Zachariason [Arkansas] and Morgan Boyd [Kansas] as Arkansas finished with one of the nation’s top-40 classes. Harris also recruited one of the top point guards in the nation in Shanita Arnold.
Harris has had the opportunity to learn from some of the game’s top coaches, including Hall of Famer Kay Yow at N.C. State. She joined the program in the 2003-04 season and assisted the squad to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years. Harris and her fellow coaches helped the Wolfpack sign JUCO Player of the Year Tiffany Stansbury, who went on to play with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx.
Her first recruiting class in Raleigh was rated as one of the best in the nation. She also garnered a commitment from Gillian Goring, the nation’s No. 1 post player who went on to play for the Washington Mystics.
Prior to jumping to the Division I level, Harris made her mark on the junior college level as an assistant coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith, where she brought in key players who led the school to the NJCAA Final Four in 2004. In two seasons coaching under the legendary Louis Whorton, she inked the nation’s No. 1 class and a 34-8 record. UAFS’s 2002-03 team went 26-2 and won a share of the Bi-State Conference championship.
The Arkansas-Fort Smith position kept the Pine Bluff native in her home state after she started her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Little Rock. Her hard work at UALR earned her a promotion to a full-time assistant position in 2000.
Harris, a 2014 inductee in the Watson’s Chapel High School Hall of Fame, also coached AAU basketball with the Arkansas Kamikaze. She began her playing career at Arkansas-Pine Bluff before transferring to Arkansas Baptist for her final two seasons.
Harris is the mother of two children, Marcus and Kiera, and the legal guardian of Lily. She also has two grandchildren, Samarah and Kaiden.