Members of the girls basketball team at Breck don’t know much about their head coach’s background. That’s not odd, considering it’s been a few years since Marcus Harris was in the headlines as one of the nation’s top athletes.
“I’m not really sure about all that he did but I know he’s kind of a legend,” said senior captain Lauren Bilcik.
Legend is a good word to describe Harris. He was a football superstar at Brooklyn Center High School, where he set 16 school records and was named the Metro Player of the Year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1992. His college career as a wide receiver at Wyoming was even more legendary.
Harris led the nation with 1,431 receiving yards as a sophomore in 1994. He finished his college career with 259 receptions for 4,518 yards and 38 touchdowns. He set an NCAA record for career receiving yards, finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting, was named a consensus All-American and received the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver after his senior year in 1996.
He was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions, was released during training camp and later played in the Canadian Football League as well as in arena football.
“I was in just about everything you could be in for at least a week or so,” he said of his post-college football career.
These days, Harris is a busy man. Not only is he Breck’s girls basketball coach, he’s also an assistant football coach at the Golden Vallley school as well as the head softball coach. He is a father of three daughters whose day job is working on the grounds crew at Breck, which can mean some very long hours.
Most days he’s at work from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. (although when snow falls he might be working at 3 or 4 in the morning making sure roads, parking lots and sidewalks on campus are clear of snow). That is followed by practices that can last until 6 p.m., and his daughters’ activities can stretch into the evening.
“It’s a long workday,” he said. “And then whenever my girls get done with their practices and whatnot, it can be tough to find sleep but we get it done.”
He coached at Brooklyn Center for several years before moving to Breck nine years ago. This is his second season as head girls basketball coach, and the Mustangs will take a 1-2 record into a home game Friday with Nova Classical Academy.
Their first victory of the season came Tuesday at Brooklyn Center when the Mustangs defeated the Centaurs 36-23. Harris remained seated throughout the game, his voice never rising as he spoke to his players and the officials. He said that isn’t always the case, especially during practice.
Junior team captain Keely Conroy said Harris is “always ready to talk to anybody whenever they want. He’s super instructive. He can joke around but also he stays really serious on the court because he wants us to be the best we can be.
“He pushes us really hard. I’m not going to lie, he pushes us. But that’s just because he wants us to live up to our potential. He really believes in us.”
Harris left Wyoming after his senior football season to pursue his professional dreams. He returned to his studies years later, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science in 2015. He was inducted into the University of Wyoming Hall of Fame in 2004.
“Here I was without a degree, unable to pursue any coaching at a higher level, and I knew I needed to get this done and put my family in a better position,” he said. “I hustled up and got that done. I didn’t want those three and a half years I spent at Wyoming to go to waste.”
His original course of study was education, with the intention of becoming a teacher. Working with the teams at Breck helps fulfill that aspiration.
“It’s my way of teaching,” he said. “It’s a teaching atmosphere without walls. It energizes me to work with young people.”
Harris doesn’t often bring up his athletic accomplishments, even when others might.
“A lot of parents, they like to Google and look their kids’ coaches up,” he said. “Sometimes in football things will come up that lead to those kids maybe doing a search or something. I had a good corps of receivers a few years ago, and I gave them a CD that showed I actually knew what I was talking about.”
That’s OK, even if his basketball players don’t know the details.
“I know he was a college football player,” Conroy said. “That’s about all I know, to be honest.”
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