By GENE PHELPS
Harry Adair’s coaching schemes were simple, but they worked and his basketball teams won championships.
Offensively, his teams ran motion. “You ran it day in and day out in practice. The players could do it in their sleep,” said Mickey Miller, who played at Hatley High School for Adair.
Adair’s teams were always sound defensively, the result of hard-nosed practices. They pressured you full-court, then dropped back into a 1-3-1 zone. “You bought into it,” Miller said. “You were doing it his way or you hit the highway.”
Adair, 80, died Wednesday following a brief illness. He lived in the Ingomar community during his later years and had a reserved courtside seat at Ingomar High School gym.
“I’ve learned a lot from Harry Adair, enough that I consider myself one of his disciples,” said former Ingomar boys and girls basketball coach Norris Ashley, who won nine state titles during his 43-year career. “We always talked basketball when we were together. He loved basketball.”
Adair’s Hatley Tigerettes won five state championships (1967, ’71, ’72, ’73 and ’74) and four Grand Slam championships (’67, ’72, ’73 and ’74). His Hatley boys and girls teams compiled a 663-199 overall record.
At Northwest Mississippi Community College, he compiled a 236-28 overall record and won a women’s community college national championship in 1983.
“He was tough on the players, but he was fair with them,” said Northwest women’s coach Don Edwards, who coached four seasons with Adair. “He didn’t do a whole lot coaching wise, but what he did, he did well. His record speaks for itself.”
Benefits for DSU
There are those who believe Adair deserves some credit for Delta State’s successful 1970s run in women’s basketball. The Lady Statesmen won three straight AIAW national championships using Adair’s coaching methods – thanks to Miller, who was a graduate assistant on Hall of Fame coach Margaret Wade’s staff. DSU also had two former Adair/Hatley players – Cornelia Ward and Wanda Hairston – on its title teams.
“We basically ran everything Hatley ran (at Delta State),” Miller said in a 2001 interview.
Added Ashley, “They ought to put Harry Adair’s name on that trophy (the Margaret Wade Trophy that goes to women’s NCAA basketball champion).”
Ward, who was a five-year starter for Adair at Hatley, said in a 2001 interview the coach prepared his players for winning.
“You didn’t know how to lose, and, you didn’t want to learn, either,” she said. “You got used to winning at Hatley. Then we came to Delta State and were able to carry it on.”
Adair clearly established as one of the best to every walk the hardwood.
“A lot of people had more talent on their teams than him, but they didn’t win as many games,” Ashley said.