Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography
Bison women’s basketball assistant coach Patrick Harrison’s fashion sense rivals men’s basketball head coach Dave Richman. But don’t let his style fool you. Harrison was born to be a coach. Growing up the son of a high school coach, teaching comes naturally, and his personable communication style makes him the perfect fit for Maren Walseth’s team. But who is the second year assistant? We sat down with him as he reveals his deepest passion (hint: they’re on his feet).
Bison Illustrated: Where are you from?
Patrick Harrison: “Wichita, Kansas. I moved around the state a lot. Both of my parents are educators. My dad was a coach. He moved around a lot to different jobs and moved all around Kansas, but my home is Wichita.”
BI: Where did you play your college ball?
PH: “I played junior college basketball at Hesston College in Kansas, it’s a Division II junior college. I got hurt with four concussions between my freshman and sophomore year. I say I was too athletic, but really, people got bigger. I had to quit my career earlier than I wanted to, but I knew one of the coaches there on the women’s side that had a daughter I went to school with. So I asked if I could volunteer when I was down there, and it worked out. I knew I wanted to coach. I didn’t know it would be on the women’s side.”
BI: What were you doing at Friends University to remain in the coaching field while getting your degree?
PH: “I was a student assistant. That was my official title, but I was pretty much full-time junior varsity head coach. I was also the recruiting coordinator.”
BI: Was coaching always the plan being a coach’s kid?
PH: “When you grow up and you’re sweeping floors and turning on clocks and airing up basketballs in the summer, it’s just one of those things you get to see all the behind the scenes, and it’s what you love doing. It’s the sweat equity. I love the interaction with the kids. I saw with coaching, the impact you can have. Obviously, my dad loves the appreciation he gets from the kids who come back and tell stories about the good and bad times they had together. I think that’s what really makes a career, and it was exciting for me and I wanted to be a part of that.”
BI: Have you ever stepped outside the game and tried anything else?
PH: “I’ve had some other jobs. I worked repossession for a little bit. I was changing locks and dealing with that stuff. I’ve done retail. I’m a huge shoe guy, a bit of a sneaker head, so I’ve worked at Foot Locker and Champs. But it all comes back to being on the floor. I love the interaction with kids.”
BI: How many pairs of shoes do you own?
PH: “When I was graduating college, I was up to about 130. Since I graduated college and I’m in the real workforce, I’ve needed some cash so I sold quite a few. But I would say, since I’ve had a job again over the last four years, I would say triple digits.”
BI: What’s your favorite pair?
PH: “Growing up as an ‘80s kid, I loved Michael Jordan. I’ve fallen off a little bit because it’s saturated. I can’t believe I’m talking shoes right now. I’m a huge Air Max guy. Probably my favorite pair I’m going to keep on ice right now is my Nike Air Stab Special Edition Runnin’ and Gunnin’. It’s black and infrared, it’s pretty sweet.”
BI: Would you say your sneaker game has translated to your dress shoe game?
PH: “Oh, absolutely. I was a big old school guy. Like Al Green, and Teddy Pendergrass music-wise, so kind of the gators and the smooth colors and pastels, that just traded off onto me. I got three or four pairs of gators.”
BI: That was more shoe talk than I was expecting.
PH: “Sneakers have been really good for me because it’s one way to connect with kids, too. A lot of kids you recruit obviously in basketball it’s very evident, especially in the girls game. Everybody loves shoes.”
BI: You’re one of the most active coaches on social media. Why do you use it so often when others don’t?
PH: “I think it’s our duty to give a little behind the scenes look at our program. Obviously, it helps with the recruiting aspect, but also I think it’s just my personality. I’m pretty extroverted anyway. But I think, as coaches, we always want to share our experiences and share our coaching styles with our kids and everybody else. But I think the big thing is: what can we share with the rest of the community – with people we don’t even know throughout the country – that we can bond with and share our experiences?”
BI: Like the photos of somebody sleeping at the airport during a road trip?
PH: “I hate it when people do that to me, but it’s funny when I do it.”
BI: Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter?
PH: “I have a bunch of sneaker stuff, so when they come out and are released, I know what’s happening. There are four or five coaches I love. As soon as they tweet, it’s just pure gold. Mike Dunlap, who’s the head coach of Loyola Marymount out in LA, is really good.”
BI: Had you ever been to North Dakota before coming here?
PH: “Nope, it’s my first time. I traveled around a lot, obviously, being a coach and my family traveled. I’ve been to Montana. I have family from Montana. So I’ve been up to the northern Midwest, I guess that’s what you’d call it.”
BI: What’s the biggest misconception of North Dakota?
PH: “I think that it’s probably that we’re not up to date or there aren’t things to do, especially in Fargo. I can’t speak for the rest of the state, but Fargo is an awesome spot, especially as a young professional or college kid. It’s awesome. We have 30,000 college students in the area, we have a booming population, you have places to eat, things to do all the time. I’ve been really impressed. Obviously, the people are wonderful. I’ve been lucky enough, too, because the weather has been really good.”
BI: Seven players signed in this recruiting class. Have you ever seen one this big?
PH: “Ironically, Maren’s (Walseth) last year at Penn State, they had a seven-person recruiting class. We didn’t intentionally do that, but it was how things worked out with our classes. It made the most sense, and I feel like, at every position, we have really quality pieces. The local kids are huge. We decided (that) for our program to improve and get to the level we want to get to, we have to take care of business at home, and that’s right within North Dakota and surrounding areas in Minnesota and South Dakota.”
BI: This is the most hype I can remember for a women’s basketball signing class.
PH: “I love hype. Just have to make sure the kids come in and bust their tails.”