High School Basketball

Will Lexington High go outside the family to hire Bailey Harris’ replacement?

Watch: Lexington coach Bailey Harris tell his team he is retiring at end of season

Lexington boys basketball coach Bailey Harris tells his team Thursday after practice he will be stepping down at the end of the season after 32 seasons.
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Lexington boys basketball coach Bailey Harris tells his team Thursday after practice he will be stepping down at the end of the season after 32 seasons.

Thomas Ryan hopes the next boys basketball coach at Lexington High is someone with ties to the school. It just won’t be him.

Ryan, who played at Lexington under retiring coach Bailey Harris, said he has no interest in returning to his alma mater to replace Harris. The Lexington native just led Dorman to its third straight Class 5A championship over the weekend with a 46-39 win over Berkeley.

Dorman is the first team since Gaffney to win three state titles in a row in the state’s biggest classification.

“Lexington is home. My parents still live three or four miles from the high school,” Ryan said last week ahead of the state championship. “Their community is incredible and everything about the high school is great. But Dorman is where I need to be and where I want to be. I’m not going anywhere. I’m thankful the administration I have has given us everything we need to be successful. I hope Lexington finds the right guy, and I know they will.”

The new coach will replace Harris, who won 637 games and two state titles during his tenure at the school. He announced Feb. 21 that this would be his last season at Lexington.

Lexington went 29-1 this year and advanced to the Class 5A Lower State championship game. Harris was on hand at Friday’s championship game and presented Ryan with the game ball on behalf of the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association.

Ryan thinks some former Lexington players now in the coaching ranks will be in the mix for the Wildcats job. There are six former Harris players who are currently head coaches in high school in South Carolina, including White Knoll’s Devin Liferidge, Dutch Fork’s Bret Jones, River Bluff’s Ben Lee, Northside Christian’s Jason Harman and Palmetto’s Will Clarke.

There are several others who are assistants in high school or at the college level. One of those is Zac Rich, a two-year starter at Lexington in the mid-2000s who later went to play at USC Upstate. He has been on Ryan’s staff at Dorman during this title run.

“Zac Rich is one of the best young coaches in South Carolina, bar none. Lexington would be crazy not to call Zac Rich,” Ryan said. “I’m sure they have a lot of great candidates. That is one thing about coach Harris being so successful and so many guys under him that have gone into coaching.

“They will have a lot of good candidates if they decide to stay with a Lexington tie. I hope they stay with a tie because there is that many good coaches that could carry on the legacy of coach Harris and the way he did it.”

Lexington athletic director Perry Woolbright said it would be a plus if the next coach has Lexington ties but that the school is going to look at all possible candidates. There have been plenty of applicants for the job, he said, and the opening will close Friday.

Interviews would begin at the earliest by the end of next week, and Woolbright hopes a new coach will be in place by early April.

“We got a good pool to choose from and are going to find the best possible fit for the Lexington,” Woolbright said.

Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The State and Island Packet. He has covered high school sports in South Carolina for 16 years and is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.