By Brad Fauber
Rob Harris took a brief absence from the men's college basketball scene, but he could only stay away for so long.
Harris, a former Shenandoah University men's basketball coach and assistant athletic director, was named on Tuesday as the new director of men's basketball operations at Virginia Tech.
An SU alum who graduated from the school in 1991, Harris served as an assistant coach for nine seasons with the Hornets before serving as the head coach for 11 years. He led Shenandoah to a 125-162 overall record, and the Hornets finished .500 or better in four of his 11 seasons. Harris resigned from the head coach position following the 2011 season.
Harris most recently served as the athletic director at Charlottesville High School during the 2012-13 school year, and he said in a phone interview Wednesday that he is excited to return to college basketball under the leadership of Hokies head coach James Johnson.
"It's extremely exciting to be down here in Blacksburg. I've worked hard and good things happen when you put your best foot forward," Harris said. "Coach Johnson believes in me and I'm so excited and full of energy and ready to rock and roll."
As the director of men's basketball operations, Harris said he will have a hand in practically every aspect of Virginia Tech's program.
In his new role, Harris will be involved in meetings covering recruiting and scouting, and he will even be in charge of making sure athletes are fulfilling their academic duties as college students. Harris, who has been hard at work in his new position since Monday, said he has even been in charge of making sure players are eating correctly while Johnson and the coaching staff are out recruiting this week.
Harris said his wide range of responsibilities shows "how much Johnson trusts me."
"It encompasses just about everything," Harris said. "Different coaches expect different things from their directors of basketball operations, but this is one of those situations where it is all-encompassing."
The relationship between Harris and Johnson dates back to when both players competed in the Dixie Conference (now the USA South) in the early 1990s, when Harris played basketball for SU and Johnson for Ferrum College. Harris and Johnson also briefly coached against each other as assistants at their respective alma maters following Johnson's graduation from Ferrum in 1993.
Harris said he is excited to team up with Johnson as the Hokies look to become more competitive in what Harris considers the nation's best basketball conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"It's a great opportunity to go up against the very best coaches, the very best programs in the country," Harris said. "I believe this is the best basketball in the entire country.
"And I will say, coach Johnson has been so instrumental in making sure we are preparing ourselves to compete with the best programs in the country," he added.
Virginia Tech, led by Winchester resident and former Millbrook High School standout Erick Green, struggled during the 2012-13 season, Johnson's first year as head coach. The Hokies finished with a 13-19 overall record, including a 4-14 mark in ACC play.
"We are excited to have Rob Harris join our staff as our new director of basketball operations," Johnson said in a statement on Virginia Tech's athletics website. "Rob brings a wealth of knowledge, head coaching experience and administrative experience after his service as the assistant athletic director at Shenandoah University and the athletic director at Charlottesville High School. We knew he would fit in immediately with our current staff and easily develop good relationships with our players while taking on the day-to-day administrative duties in the office."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org