View Full Version : Former Assistant Coach Dick Harter Dies At 81
03-12-2012, 10:40 PM
Sad news tonight as former Indiana Pacers assistant coach Dick Harter passed away on Monday at age 81. Harter had been suffering from cancer and reportedly died in his Hilton Head, SC home.
Coach Harter was best known his defensive influence on any team he coached, starting in the early '70's when he was the head coach for the Oregon Ducks. Harter spent most of his coaching career as an assistant coach at the NBA level, including on the bench for the Pacers under coaches Jack Ramsay, Larry Bird and Jim O'Brien.
Among his many years on the bench with the Pacers, the 2000 team that played the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals had the most success. On that team Harter was part of a unique and talented coaching staff the was among the best in the NBA. Larry Bird was the head coach overseeing everything while Harter acted as the "defensive coordinator" directing the team's strong defensive effort, while Rick Carlisle (a pretty good coach in his own right) handled the "offensive coordinator" duties.
I recall seeing Harter in his latter years with the Pacers sitting up in the stands, often with his wife, observing the players go through individual workouts a couple of hours before the game. I used to wonder just how many hours and days he'd spent observing such workouts. It was clear there was no where he would rather be than in the gym.
Rest in peace, Coach Harter.
Very sad news, RIP Harter.
03-12-2012, 10:41 PM
Very sad news indeed.
03-12-2012, 10:43 PM
03-12-2012, 10:45 PM
RIP Dick Harter, I hope you enjoy your court side seats up above.
03-12-2012, 10:46 PM
I've noticed people slipping lately, so let me remind everyone to include the URL when pasting a link.
Sad to hear about the coach.
03-12-2012, 10:49 PM
Very sad news today. He will be sorely missed in the basketball community and beyond. I wish the Harter family my condolences. Watching a family member slowly decline and pass from such a viscious disease is really tough.
03-12-2012, 10:50 PM
I've noticed people slipping lately, so let me remind everyone to include the URL when pasting a link.
Sad to hear about the coach.
Here's the link (http://www.indycornrows.com/2012/3/12/2866662/former-pacers-assistant-coach-dick-harter-dies-at-81)
03-12-2012, 10:53 PM
rest in peace coach.
03-13-2012, 12:05 AM
03-13-2012, 02:22 AM
03-13-2012, 03:21 AM
03-13-2012, 07:02 AM
Rest in Peace Coach Harter. You were already sorely missed in the hearts of Pacers fans who truly appreciated defense.
I do hope that, posthumously, the powers that be of the Pacers organization will somehow find it in their collective hearts now to give him the sendoff he so richly deserved and should have actually received when he was still here, as opposed to the classless halftime "ceremony" where his departure was marginalized into a shockingly truncated and disrespectful fiasco that left those of us in attendance that night who respected his career and what he brought to our franchise bewildered, at best.
03-13-2012, 07:35 AM
RIP coach. One of the great defensive minded coaches. He will be missed.
03-13-2012, 07:42 AM
He was one of my favorite alltime NBA coaches. If you read Larry Bird's book during his time as Pacers coach, you will remember many great stories about Dick Harter. He was one of the best ever assistant coaches in the NBA.
He had three stints as Pacers assistant coach? Under Jack Ramsey, Larry Bird and Jim O'Brien. He always seemed to have a great attitude, great work ethic and was a pure basketball coach - didn't care about anything else except coaching - didn't seek attention.
03-13-2012, 07:48 AM
here is a nice article about his time as head coach for the Oregon Ducks
Kamikaze Kids’ coach Dick Harter, who led standout Oregon teams, dies at 81
His intense style of play transformed UO basketball and inspired a fanatical following
By Bob Clark
<!-- /.byline -->Published: (Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012 05:02AM) Today
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University of Oregon coach Dick Harter stomps his feet in protest during a Civil War game in Portland in 1977. Standing behind Harter are Duck players Kelvin Small (left) and Joe Morec.
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Dick Harter, whose seven-year tenure as the head basketball coach at the University of Oregon was almost unmatched in the school’s athletic history for creating a fanatical following for his team, died Monday night at a hospital in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 81.
No cause of death for Harter was given, but he had recently been treated for cancer. Services are pending.
“It’s a big loss for basketball,” longtime friend Peter Murphy said. “It’s a sad night for all of us.”
Harter’s era at Oregon was marked by a McArthur Court that was filled to capacity night after night and that saw the Ducks mirror their coach’s intense personality with a style of play that led to the players being nicknamed “The Kamikaze Kids.” The Ducks were 113-81 in those seven years, and while they didn’t win a Pac-8 title, their accomplishments were notable, including famously breaking a 98-game winning streak for UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
“You talk about people leaving footprints. He left his footprints,” said Ernie Kent, a Harter player who went on to coach the Ducks from 1997-2010. “He changed the mentality of a community, he changed a program, he changed lives.”
No challenge was too daunting for Harter’s teams, no opponent was to be feared. He arrived in Eugene after a successful tenure at the University of Pennsylvania and announced that his goal was to take on UCLA, then a perennial national championship contender that ruled the conference under the direction of the late and legendary John Wooden.
“You never saw John Wooden get too riled up during a game, but there were a couple of times (against Harter’s Oregon teams) when he rolled that program up a little tighter,” said Don Essig, then and now the court announcer for Oregon basketball. “It was so intense ... It was the most exciting basketball I’ve ever seen. That’s the only way I can say it.”
Oregon hired Harter away from Penn in the spring of 1971, and after his first team went 6-20, Harter led the Ducks to six consecutive winning seasons and three appearances in the National Invitation Tournament, including a third-place finish in 1975.
It was Harry Miller, the coach at Wichita State, who once said in a post-game interview after playing Oregon that the Ducks were “like Kamikaze pilots” in their zeal to play the game. Harter first felt offended, then realized how “Kamikaze Kids” could be turned to his advantage.
Later, it was Gene Bartow, Wooden’s successor at UCLA, who termed Oregon fans “deranged idiots” for their vocal and fanatical support of the Ducks. Again, UO fans wore buttons and shirts with that wording as a badge of honor.
It was Harter himself who, seeing Mac Court for the first time, declared his fondness for the facility, saying, “It’s a pit. It’s perfect.”
Harter was hired away from Oregon by Penn State, and then went on to serve as an assistant coach for six NBA teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers. He was also the first head coach of the Charlotte Hornets.
While he earned widespread recognition as a defensive specialist in the NBA, it was his time at Oregon that stood out in Harter’s career, and he never seemed to forget his friends in the area and the followers of the Ducks, many of them students who would camp out for nights before home games to make sure they could attend.
Throughout his time working in the NBA and since his retirement in South Carolina, Harter closely kept track of Oregon football and men’s basketball results, and spoke only last week of his feeling that the Ducks were playing as well as any team in the Pac-12 entering the conference tournament. During football season, he tried to watch every Oregon game no matter how late the telecast might run when he was in the Eastern time zone, and it wasn’t unusual for him to contact UO boosters or even sports reporters to check on information related to Oregon teams.
Harter had been in Eugene twice in recent years, first to be honored as part of the farewell to Mac Court two years ago and then for the opening weekend of Matthew Knight Arena in 2011.
The passing of Harter was especially difficult for Kent, who played for Harter at Oregon and then returned to coach the Ducks for 13 years, becoming the school’s winningest coach.
“The greatest testament to any coach isn’t his record but the fact that here it is, 35 years later, and there are so many of us who stayed in contact with Dick and wanted him to be a part of our life,” Kent said. “He was extremely tough on us, and I know that’s what some people will remember, but I don’t think there’s a guy who played for him and went on to be successful in his life who won’t say it’s because of what Dick did for them.
“I would hope that when all is said and done, it’s not about wins and losses but it’s about changing lives, and Dick did. He was not perfect — none of us are — but I’ll always be grateful for what he did for me. I’m honored to have played for him and to have had him in my life.”
“When all is said and done, it’s not about wins and losses but it’s about changing lives, and Dick did.”
03-13-2012, 08:50 AM
At least he is in a place where the Pacers are always the NBA Champions!
03-13-2012, 09:18 AM
Good life. Family, doing what he loved for a living, and much more.
03-13-2012, 09:33 AM
Met Coach Harter in Beijing in 2009. He was just so nice.
I would never forget that smile on his face.
03-13-2012, 09:40 AM
Best name in sports and will be heavily missed by those of us who appreciate defense. RIP, Coach!
03-13-2012, 10:09 AM
03-13-2012, 10:50 AM
He is in a place higher than any rafter. What a great coach. This is a sad day for Pacers Basketball. Let's get a win in his honor!
03-13-2012, 01:34 PM
Former Pacers assistant coach Dick Harter dies at 81 - The Indianapolis Star (http://www.indystar.com/article/20120313/SPORTS04/120313026/Former-Pacers-assistant-coach-Dick-Harter-dies-81)
Former Pacers assistant coach Dick Harter died Monday night at his home in Hilton Head, South Carolina at age 81.
Harter served as an assistant coach with the Pacers under Jack Ramsay, Larry Bird and Jim O'Brien.
The Pacers released the following statements:
Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird: “Obviously, it’s tough, but I had a lot of great times with Dick. Bringing him in here to help me when I was coach was great, not only for me, but for the team and the franchise. He was very good at what he did and on the defensive end, you couldn’t find anybody better. He loved it here and he’d come back anytime.”
Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel: “A horribly tough day. He’s one of the best basketball men I’ve ever had the privilege to work with, a hard-nosed, tough son-of-a-gun. I learned so much from him. He was a wonderful man, a great guy to be around, a lot of fun and just loved the game of basketball.”
Pacers assistant coach Dan Burke: “He had a passion for the game, a passion for the job and he expected that from his players and co-workers. But he was one of the most fun and caring guys I’ve ever been around. Among many things I loved about him was talking about current events and books, particularly World War II and Civil War books. He was always thirsty for knowledge and reading. And he loved college football, particularly Notre Dame.”
Pacers player Jeff Foster: “Your NBA career is often defined by the early influences in your career. I was fortunate enough to have one of the best defensive coaches in NBA history to influence me as a rookie. For 13 years I’ve had Coach Harter to thank for my defensive-minded fundamentals and approach to the game.”
Pacers player Danny Granger: “He was a great coach, really a defensive-minded coach and he taught us a lot. He was a tough coach but a great guy to be around.”
Former Pacers player Reggie Miller: “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Harter family. It was an honor to be coached on two separate occasions by one of the best defensive minds the NBA has seen.”
Former Pacers President Donnie Walsh: “When you hired him as an assistant, the one thing you knew was that you would be good defensively. I liked Dick a lot because even though he was a ‘sarge’ on the floor with the players, he was a very sociable guy. He was fun to be around. We lose a guy that was a good friend and worthy of admiration throughout the league.”
03-13-2012, 01:49 PM
If I were to put together a list of 5 or 6 NBA coaches who have done the most to influence and change how defense is played in the NBA. Dick harter would be on that list for sure and he'd be the only assistant coach on the list. he was a big believer in having a defensive system that didn't change from game to game, didn't change depending on the opponent. He was a proponent of executing defensively and having a system that worked against any type of offense.
Some great stuff in this article as well
Harter influenced three generations of Pacers teams
<TABLE align=right hspace="4"><TBODY><TR><TD></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>March 13, 2012 - When Larry Bird became a head coach, one of the first people he called was Dick Harter.
When Bird became a team President, he called his old friend one more time, for what turned out to be the last stop in a long, prolific and memorable coaching career.
Harter, a legendary coach who played a key role in three generations of Pacers teams from 1986-2010, died Monday night at his home in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 81.
"Obviously, it's tough but I had a lot of great times with Dick, bringing him in here helping me when I was coaching was great for not only me but for the team and the franchise," Bird said. "He was very good at what he did and on the defensive end you couldn't find anybody better. …
"He loved it here. He'd come back any time. I know when I took over (in the front office) I called him and he and his wife (Mari) were excited about coming back, getting back to Indianapolis. He spent a lot of years here and enjoyed every one of them."
Harter served three terms with the Pacers, under Jack Ramsay from 1986-88, under Bird from 1997-2000, and under Jim O'Brien from 2007 until his retirement in 2010. Such was the nature of his personality that when the franchise made plans to honor him in an on-court ceremony in April 2010, Harter was kept in the dark because he wasn't a big fan of pomp and circumstance.
In his 57-year coaching career Harter won 295 games and posted a .601 winning percentage as a college head coach at Penn, Oregon and Penn State. Though he was only a head coach briefly at the NBA level (in the first two seasons of the expansion Charlotte Hornets), Harter had at least as big an impact at the professional level.
He helped shape the legendary Detroit "Bad Boys" defense under Chuck Daly, played a key role in establishing Pat Riley's Knicks as a tenacious defensive force and of course transformed Bird's Pacers into one of the most physical, respected defensive teams in the NBA.
"There was a time when you hired him as an assistant, the one thing you knew was that you would be good defensively," said former Pacers President Donnie Walsh. "That's what he was known for. Looking back on it, he was about an efficient an assistant coach as any coach I ever saw. I mean the guy basically could get NBA players to play great defense taking eight minutes in practice.
"He'd ask for eight minutes, and I'd sit there and watch practice and he had everything down to a science. And in the offseason, he'd go and talk to football coaches who were known for defense and get their ideas. He was the real deal."
Harter's defensive influence played a major role in the Pacers' only trip to the NBA Finals in 2000.
"If you go back and look at that team, it really wasn't blessed with a lot of individual defensive abilities," Walsh said. "It wasn't athletic in the backcourt. The one thing we had was Dale Davis, a power forward that was a shot-blocker. But other than that, we really didn't have any athletic, long-type people that you normally associate with defense. But Dick taught them how to play defense as a team and they were as good as anybody and could compete when it counted in the playoffs. We were a solid, solid defensive team."
A no-nonsense coach with a gruff demeanor on the court, Harter was a firm believer that if basic principles were executed consistently and with commitment, any team could become a defensive force. That certainly proved to be the case with the Pacers under Bird.
Assistant coach Dan Burke, who worked side-by-side with Harter under Bird and O'Brien, recalled a story from practice that illustrated his intensity.
"One time he tripped and fell during practice and guys were laughing," Burke said. "He said, 'You guys think that's funny? I haven't seen any of you get on the floor for weeks.' And he rolled the ball out and did an all-out dive and gathered it up and said, 'Let's see one of you guys do that.'
"He expected a certain intensity and focus and attention to the job. I'll always hold to that standard."
Away from the court, however, Harter was a remarkably warm man, quick with a smile -- and a story. A voracious reader, he had a quick, wry wit and a remarkable depth of knowledge about history and politics as well as basketball.
"I liked Dick a lot because even though he was like a 'sarge' on the floor with the players, he was a very social, sociable guy," Walsh said. "He was fun to be around. He wasn't all blood-and-guts, you know? He just wasn't."
When Frank Vogel made the jump from the video room to the bench as an assistant to O'Brien in Boston nearly a decade ago, Harter was the lead assistant. The two remained together under O'Brien in Philadelphia and ultimately in Indiana.
In his first full season as the team's head coach, Vogel said he abides by principles he learned from Harter.
"I've taken a lot from him, just his whole defensive mindset, keeping it one way, keeping it simple and doing it your way," Vogel said. "Just having that toughness, grit and determination is obviously a big part of my coaching DNA.
"He was just a wonderful man, a great guy to be around, a lot of fun, just loved the game of basketball. He was always a tough-minded guy with our players but a lovable guy. Everybody had tremendous respect for Dick. It's a tough loss."
Though he could be tough on players, Harter commanded respect and left a lasting imprint on many.
"Your NBA career is often defined by the early influences in your career," said Jeff Foster. "I was fortunate enough to have one of the best defensive coaches in NBA history to influence me as a rookie. For 13 years I’ve had Coach Harter to thank for my defensive-minded fundamentals and approach to the game."
Danny Granger developed into an All-Star under O'Brien and Harter.
"He was a great coach, really a defensive-minded coach and he taught us a lot," Granger said. "It was sad to see him go. He was a great guy to be around. He was a very tough coach, which was what we needed sometimes, but off the court you could talk to him. I had a lot of conversations with him in his office, one-on-one. He was just an all-around good guy."
One of the best assistant coaches in the history of the NBA and a legend at the collegiate level, Harter will be missed by the game, as well as the hundreds -- if not thousands -- of lives he touched in his career.
"We lose a guy that was a good friend," said Walsh, "and worthy of admiration throughout the league."
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03-13-2012, 04:09 PM
R.I.P. Dick :(
Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
Seemed like an instrumental coach in a lot of the Pacers' recent success and just an all around savvy basketball mind.
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