First-year Tennessee men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin completed his staff on Tuesday with the hiring of his lifelong friend, Marco Harris, to the new position of student-athlete welfare coordinator.
The position replaces the position of assistant to the head coach, which Mark Pancratz held last season. Pancratz was hired as coordinator of video scouting on Friday.
Martin said Harris is “like a brother to me,’’ as the two have a relationship that dates back more than 30 years to when they were growing up together in East St. Louis, Ill.
Harris will supervise UT players in the classroom and in the community while also serving as the liaison to the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center as well as the housing, admissions and financial aid offices.
Last season, Harris coached at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla., taking over as interim varsity coach from January to March. Harris led the school to a second consecutive OSSAA state title, as it finished 21-0 to extend a 25-game win streak that dates back to the 2010 season when Harris was an assistant coach with the program.
Harris began his collegiate athletic career playing baseball at Southern Illinois University before transferring to Southwestern Oklahoma State to play basketball. He developed into the starting point guard at SWOSU from 1992-94 and also served as a team captain.
“He’s got a genuine passion for developing young men and making sure they reach their full potential on and off the court,’’ Martin said in a UT release. “His years of experience working in public school systems demonstrate that he’s drawn to helping young people meet life’s challenges and overcome adversity.”
Harris’ background includes work outside the coaching ranks, too, as he has owned and operated a Subway restaurant in Sand Springs, Okla., since 1999. He also has held various teaching, coaching and athletic administration positions over the past two decades.
In 2005, Harris served as assistant basketball coach at Nathan Hale Magnet High School in Tulsa. As an AAU coach Harris led the Tulsa Titans from 2004-06 as well as the “Playing with a Purpose” program from 2006-09. His 2008 “Playing with a Purpose” squad captured the Mid America Youth Basketball (MAYB) National Championship.
Harris’ experience at the administrative level includes a stint as the athletic director at Tulsa’s Monroe and Gilcrease Middle Schools from 2000-05. In 1995-96, Harris worked with St. Louis Arc, helping mentally disabled young men and women develop work and life skills.