Del Harris remembers the first time he was nominated for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

It was 2012 and to say he was a bit giddy would be shortchanging his feelings.

“I was dumb enough to be excited about it,” Harris said Monday. “Then after about four or five years of being nominated and not making it, you start to think: wait a minute. Maybe I should hold off on emailing and texting and calling all my family members about it.”

Who knew that the 10th time would be the charm for the former Mavericks’ assistant coach to Don Nelson and head coach of three NBA teams for a dozen years, 11 of them playoff teams. He won 55 percent of his regular-season games.

The hall call came to Harris Tuesday before the official announcement on Saturday at the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans. He flew with his wife Ann to the official announcement where he joined old friend George Karl as well as referee Hugh Evans (a call that the hall certainly got right), college coach Bob Huggins, Manu Ginobili, Tim Hardaway, Swin Cash and six others as members of the 2022 class of inductees.

Harris credited a slew of hall of fame players that he coached for helping him load his career with highlights. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Rudy Tomjanovich, Sidney Moncrief and Jack Sikma are just some of the former players in Springfield, Mass., that Harris was lucky enough to coach.

And then there was Nelson. And Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban.

“None of this happens with Nellie and Mark,” Harris said.

The story that made Harris into the coach he was started after he was fired from the Houston Rockets.

He’d already coached a team that went 40-42 and snuck into the playoffs to the NBA finals, losing to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in six games. A couple of years later, he was history.

“I took the bullet for them getting Ralph Sampson,” Harris recalls as he coached the team that went 14-68 in 1982-83 and got the prized Sampson in the draft with the top overall pick. That was the only full season that Harris coached in which his team did not make the playoffs.

After picking up work where he could find it and a failed attempt to get the head coaching job at Lamar University in Beaumont (they hired Tom Abatemarco), Harris found himself unemployed and a financial victim of the oil bust that happened about that same time.

Nelson called with a job in Milwaukee as his assistant coach. That stemmed from Harris and Nelson both scouting the same game in Memphis – it was Nelson’s first time scouting a game and Harris helped him through the process.

A few months later, Nelson was promoted to head coach in Milwaukee and he never forgot Harris’ expertise when it came to analyzing basketball games.

It was the beginning of a long relationship that was good for both Nelson and Harris and will end with both of them in the hall.

“When something happens like this at my age (85 in June) it just makes it that much more special,” Harris said.

And there is no way to quantify Harris’ career. He’s put in six decades of work into the game – the high school level, college, the NBA and he’s been the head coach of five national teams, including China in the 2008 Olympics.

And he provided blueprints for more coaches than Harris could possibly fathom.

“He’s incredibly deserving,” said Milwaukee Bucks’ coach Mike Budenholzer, who learned the craft in San Antonio working for years under Gregg Popovich and, for several playoff series, against Harris. “Just a very innovative and creative basketball mind. Beyond deserving of being in the hall of fame and I think a big influence on a lot of coaches, a lot of players – including internationally. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Harris remains in relatively good health and still lives in Frisco. He’s vice president of the Texas Legends, working closely with president Spud Webb.

Both can be seen at a lot of Legends’ home games.

The call to the hall is a crowning moment on his legendary career. The Mavericks were a big part of it. Harris was a trusted ally not only for Nelson but also for Avery Johnson when he took over for Nelson in 2005.

“I owe so much to not only Nellie but to Mark Cuban,” Harris said. “The end of that first season, 2000, when we put Steve Nash in the starting lineup and won something like 15 of our last 20 games, that was a big turning point. Mark wanted better defense, so that’s what Nellie told me to work on.”

And part of that was Nelson allowing Harris to take charge of the defensive end of the court and getting the most out of a team that would then win 50 or more games for 11 consecutive seasons.

Nelson and Harris would not be around to see the championship of 2011. But the seeds were sown when they were turning the soil.

“When you talk about Del and the impact he’s had on the game, we’re all excited for him and his family as he should have been in there a long time ago,” Mavericks’ coach Jason Kidd said. “The next guy we have to try to get in is Dick Motta. He should be in, too.”

One Mavericks’ legend at a time. But for Harris, the time was long overdue.

Twitter: @ESefko

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