Elliot Harris is home, literally.
He lives one mile from Buchholz High School.
On Monday he was named the Bobcats’ new varsity boys basketball coach, replacing Blake Golden who had resigned last month.
“I am very excited about Elliot Harris becoming our boys basketball coach,” said Buchholz Athletics Director Ron Brooks. “He checks off all the boxes and I feel he will help our basketball program reach new heights. He's a tremendous person with great basketball knowledge.”
Harris returns to the varsity sideline after leading his alma mater, Santa Fe (Alachua), to a state championship game appearance two years ago.
Santa Fe (20-6) rallied from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter to force overtime against Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale) in the Class 4A state championship game but ended up losing, 90-83, in double overtime. Santa Fe won 15 of 16 games at one point, and they beat rival Eastside (20-3) three times, the Rams’ only losses the entire season.
“Man, it’s awesome to be back in the saddle,” said Harris, who was Santa Fe’s JV head coach this past season. “After two years removed, just being here at Buchholz, there’s a lot of tradition here. My head coach (1994-95), Rick Swain, was here before he went to Santa Fe and he’s a legend throughout the state. This used to be a powerhouse, there are a lot of good pieces here, young talent, and we’ve got an opportunity to win at a high level.”
Harris, who took home Coach of the Year honors for the inaugural Mainstreet Daily News/The Prep Zone All Area Basketball Team in 2021, announced his retirement following 20 seasons of coaching in March of 2021. He led the Raiders to their first state championship game appearance in school history. Santa Fe defeated Lake Highland Prep (Orlando), 51-49, in the region final that year to advance to their first state semifinal appearance since 2002.
“I did everything I could do at Santa Fe High School,” Harris said. “I graduated from Santa Fe High School, love it, I spent 21 years as a coach there, but that’s Coach (Glen) Banks’ program. It’s in good hands. They did a tremendous job this year.”
Harris said that the experience of getting to the state title game can “absolutely” help him at Buchholz.
“Every game, every practice, every scenario, it’s just something you put in your backpack and you carry wherever you are,” he said. “We do things the right way. We did that at Santa Fe High School. Our kids are going to be respectful, get their grades, but more importantly, they’re going to be good people. If they can’t meet those expectations, they won’t play.”
Those were attributes that led Brooks to the hire.
“He has a history of sustained success as a head coach and great knowledge of basketball in the area,” Brooks said. “I feel he will do a great job of leading our student-athletes both on and off the court. He's a great fit for where we want to go.”
Buchholz played a very tough schedule this past season, finishing 13-14 with a loss to rival Gainesville in the Class 6A-District 2 championship game, and they just missed the postseason.
“Blake did a great job with the guys last year,” Harris said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t transfer to wins/losses but they have a great foundation here and he did play a tough schedule, and with the playoff format being how it is, it doesn’t reward you necessarily all the time from playing that so there’s a delicate balance when it comes to scheduling.”
Harris is optimistic moving forward.
“I think we’ve been set up for some good things in the future as far as facilities, the administration, they’ve been nothing but supportive,” he said. “They’re going to give me everything that I need in order to do this job and I’m going to make sure I give them everything that I can to make sure that we get back to the state level.”
On Wednesday when Harris introduced himself to the team, he told them winning was important, but winning the right way was more important.
“We’re going to work hard and do it the right way,” he said. “If you do it the wrong way and you win, did you really win? Playing basketball is a vehicle to life. If you show up and you work hard, be a good teammate, those are characteristics that you can take to any job. I told them that’s what I expect. We’re building good men.”
The first order of business is making sure he gets the best staff available, to make sure it’s the right fit for his program.
“Our job is to put them in a position to be successful,” Harris said. “The second order of business is to get some fundraisers going, put together the schedule, summer basketball because we’ve got to get in the weight room. We’ve got to get ready for summer because that will be important to building our foundation.”
Santa Fe will always be home, but now Buchholz is his home.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correctly identify a quote from Elliot Harris, rather than Glen Banks.