Chris Harrison had a smile for everyone he met and brought his charisma onto the basketball court, along with a fierce competitive streak.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Harrison, known as “Big Daddy,” was an undersized, but highly effective center for North Idaho College, helping the Cardinals reach the 1997 NJCAA Tournament Final Four.
Harrison died Wednesday at the age of 42 from a heart attack in the Seattle area.
“He was at work (at Boeing) and wasn’t feeling good,” NIC coach Corey Symons said. “He left to take himself to Urgent Care and had a heart attack in the parking lot.”
Symons, who played at Northwest College in Kirkland, Washington, met Harrison at open gyms and the two become close friends. They teamed up at Hoopfest for several years and Symons stayed at Harrison’s place when recruiting trips took him to Seattle.
“He’d light up a room every time he came in,” Symons said. “Always had a smile on his face and just the happiest guy you’ve ever met. He truly cared about other people. Every time I saw him, he asked about my wife and my kids.”
Harrison, Andre McKanstry and Shawn Myrick followed former Jacksonville (Texas) College coach Mark White when White joined Hugh Watson’s staff as an assistant coach.
The trio, along with Todd Myles and Cameron Banks, formed the starting five on an entertaining, high-scoring squad that posted the program’s most successful NJCAA Tournament showing. With no starters taller than the 6-4 Harrison, NIC won 30 games and took fourth at the national tournament.
All five starters went on to play Division I. Harrison left Iona after one season to conclude his career at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston.
“I had a close friend ask me recently to pick the one player from my career that checks all the boxes on and off the court,” said White, a coach for nearly three decades. “It’d be Chris Harrison. The best human being, great player, checks every box. Big Daddy was just so tough, played with so much energy and passion that it rubbed off on people.”
Harrison, a Houston native, stayed involved in the game as a Seattle-area AAU coach and most recently as an assistant coach at Ingraham High. A memorial for Harrison will be held March 23 at Ingraham’s gymnasium.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.