Harrison interviews for Blue Hawks jobCaleb Harrison likes basketball.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
Caleb Harrison likes basketball.
Hold that thought. The 29-year-old from Christchurch, New Zealand loves basketball.
“I’m very passionate about basketball, that kind of shows from me moving from New Zealand to the United States,” Harrison said. “This is such a passionate basketball area. The fans are extremely knowledgeable.”
Harrison, who didn’t get the opportunity to play college basketball because Christchurch College of Education didn’t have a basketball program, put his hat in the ring for the Dickinson State women’s head basketball coaching job.
He had an on-campus interview at the school Monday. DSU plans to make a decision about the position today. The school interviewed Harrison and former Northwestern State (La.) assistant coach Bob Austin on Friday.
Harrison did play high school basketball and club basketball in New Zealand. He is familiar with the Midwest and said that should help with recruiting if hired at DSU. Last year he was the head coach at Hannibal (Mo.) LaGrange University and was an assistant coach for Dakota State (S.D.) University in during the 2008-09 season.
“The familiarity is great, I really think it helps with recruiting,” Harrison said. “Just knowing the different high school coaches, different junior college coaches, really helps. I really enjoyed my year in South Dakota.
“Ice fishing was something that was new to me,” he added with a laugh. “If I get this job, I’m hoping to do a little ice fishing in the winter.”
Harrison was also the assistant coach at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., from 2009-11. His first assistant coaching job was for the women’s basketball team at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., from 2006-07. A year later, he was the assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at Lambuth University.
Harrison said his reason for leaving Hannibal LaGrange, an NAIA Division I school, after one season was the chance to help DSU transition to the Frontier Conference.
“This is a better job,” he said. “Just as far as salary, scholarships and the Frontier Conference, that DSU is going into is one of the best NAIA Division I programs in nation.
“I’m really excited about that. I would really love the opportunity to take DSU to a position where we could win the conference championship in future years.”
A transition period for any team is tough. Harrison has some coaching philosophies that might help weather the storm in the next two to three years.
“It’s just developing a team culture where the players compete every night,” Harrison said. “It doesn’t matter who we are playing, it doesn’t matter, the score, whether we are up or down, just getting them to play hard all the time. I think that’s the first step moving to a new conference is competing and then when once you start competing you are in a position where you can win those games.”
When looking for recruits, he doesn’t only want players who are going to play hard every day, but one’s who are going to excel in the classroom.
“We’re definitely looking for players that are going to fit DSU both academically and athletically,” Harrison said. “I think the right fit is the key, because they are the ones that are going to go on and be successful.”
In addition to academics and athleticism, Harrison is looking for players to assist in the community.
“We want hard workers, we want players that want to be part of something bigger than just themselves,” Harrison said. “We want them to be part of the basketball program that gets involved with the community. That’s just as important to me as winning or losing.
“Obviously, winning is important and is important to the community, but we want to make a positive impact on both the kids and adults in the community.”
On the court, Harrison has an offensive and defensive mindset that focuses on the basics and being fundamentally sound.
“I think versatility is a very important thing that I look for,” Harrison said. “I like players that can handle the ball, shoot the ball, but they can also play inside. Defensively, players, who want to play defense and take pride in being relentless on the defensive end of the court.”
Harrison has learned from some very positive role models, including Don Meyer, the former men’s basketball coach at Northern State who had he most wins in NCAA history when he retired. He has also learned from Lin Dunn, the head coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, and Ty Margenthaler, the head women’s basketball coach for Southeast Missouri State University.
He said with all those voices helped shape him into the coach he is today.
“Coach Meyer taught me just about everything I know about the game,” Harrison said. “We will be trying to create a culture similar to what he created.
“She (Dunn) invites me to watch the Indiana Fever training camps each year. She’s just a great woman, who has shared her basketball knowledge with me, and has been very open about it.”
Harrison was able to meet with returning DSU players earlier on Monday and said the vibe he got from the players was one of anticipation and eagerness to compete in the Frontier Conference.
“I think there’s a solid returning group and I was able to meet with the players earlier today (Monday),” he said. “I really like their approach. They want to compete and they are looking forward to the challenge of the Frontier Conference.”