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After speaking to Coach Harrison (see Tuesday's Crimson). I decided to get the players' feeling on what was wrong with the team. Over the course of a two week period. I spoke to six individuals who played for Harvard in either of the last two seasons.
None of them wanted to speak for attribution for various reasons. Some of the present ballplayers felt if they spoke publicly Harrison would not play them next year. Others felt that Harrison would take their criticism personally and that their reason for speaking out was to express what they felt to be team sentiment about Coach Harrison.
One player on this year's team said that there was a total lack of communication.
"With Harrison, you felt that everything you said would get back to him. He accused ballplayers of bringing their roommates to games to boo him. And if you told him something privately, he would throw it back at you in a team meeting," the player said.
He said that even though he felt dissatisfied with his position on the team, he did not feel he could go discuss his problems with Harrison.
"The pressure started to build up in pre-season. Even though Harrison wasn't allowed to be on the floor before official practices started, he always seemed to find a reason to walk across the gym floor. The team held 'voluntary workouts' during this period but Harrison marked down who didn't show up and held it against that person later."
He also complained that Harrison began the season with the policy that everyone would have a role on the team and get a chance to play. "After the first game that all changed as Harrison picked out six of seven guys who he then said had to play almost full-time," he said.
Contacted last night, coach Harrison said he was well aware of the fact that players' roommates often booed him from the stands but said he never insinuated that the players had asked them to come.
Four of the players contacted started at one point for Harvard during one of the two seasons.
A former player also criticized Harrison's method of picking a starting line-up. "Harrison built up set impressions of how people played so that the starters never really had to worry if they did poorly in practice. Also there was little incentive for a sub to go all out because he knew he wouldn't get any more playing time. This had a stagnating effect on the team," he said. He added that he was surprised that Harrison benched James Brown at all this season.
One of the players was careful to note that his major criticisms of Harrison were not over his coaching techniques, but over his ability to deal rationally with the players on his team.
"After we lost the first Dartmouth game, Harrison exploded. He challenged anyone who thought he was a bad coach to a fight and said that basketball was the only thing we would remember when we left Harvard," the player said.
After Harvard lost to Pennsylvania and Princeton, the player said. Harrison blamed the players for taking food out of his children's mouths.
"At this point I thought the guy was really crazy. I mean he said that everyone should feel sorry for him because his wife had had two operations. And when he said we were taking the food out of his kids' mouths, that was almost unbelievable." The player said he felt compassion for Harrison but really didn't think he did much to help the team by bringing his personal problems into their lives.
The player also objected to the way Harrison handled the other people on the team. He cited the case of Jim Fitzsimmons as an example.
"Harrison loves to stress the negative. If you make a mistake. Harrison will yank you right out of the line-up. A number of times people went into the game as substitutes and made mistakes the first time they got the ball. Harrison immediately took them out of the line-up," he said.
However the player noted that at the end of the season Harrison really lost touch with the team. He explained that while the team did not have much trouble getting up for the final two games of the season against Columbia and Cornell, they played poorly and Harrison refused to fly home with them. "When we got onto the airplane after the Cornell game, Harrison wasn't there and in fact I don't think anyone saw him after the game ended," he said.
The player explained that relations between team members and Harrison grew so strained that Harrison made only a brief appearance at the team's banquet.
"Harrison only stayed for a couple of minutes. He walked into the room and asked Floyd Lewis if he hated him. Floyd said 'No Coach. I don't hate you' and Harrison said 'You're the only one that doesn't'. Harrison left immediately after that exchange," the player said.
Another player who played on the team two seasons ago echoed the other player's comments. He stressed the fact that Harrison criticized players unmercifully and never offered any personal encouragement.
"Harrison's criticisms weren't fair. They were meant to humiliate you personally. He would refer to people on the team as "dummy" or "stupid" and insult their basic intelligence," he said.
The former player explained that the result was that he was unable to judge what should have been taken as honest criticism. He said he recognized that he made mistakes but because of Harrison's constant yelling he "just erected a barrier to everything he said."
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