By Jason Shoot
While his duties at Montana State University-Bozeman won't officially conclude until July 1, recently-hired Northern men's basketball coach Brian Harrell is already getting situated in his new post.
Harrell, who takes over the Lights program after Northern chose not to renew former coach Tim Walker's contract following this past season, just finished his second year at Bozeman after four successful years at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo.
He is already out on the recruiting trail, and although the NAIA's letter-of-intent day has passed, he believes he is on the verge of landing recruits that will benefit the program.
"I want to be selective," Harrell said of the recruiting process. "It's not so much in numbers but in good quality. We're looking at some (junior college) kids, but we want to get the right fit.
"We'll try to start with Montana kids. There's always quite a few kids good kids, good players. Those are the kind we're looking for."
Harrell, named the Wyoming Conference women's coach of the year in 1995, was a standout guard at Northwest College and MSU-Billings after being named Indiana's Mini-Mr. Basketball in high school.
Harrell, who earned his master's degree in sport administration from the University of Northern Colorado, said the process of earning the Lights' head-coaching position was a long one.
"It was down to two good candidates (the other was Scott Hatler), and I knew it was going to be a close call," Harrell said. "Then (athletic director Ted Spatkowski) called and told me I had been picked. I was pretty excited and a little relieved."
Harrell said he was well aware of the level of support Northern athletics receives from the community from his playing days at Eastern Montana, which has since been renamed MSU-Billings.
The new coach said he prefers to play an up-tempo style of basketball, but he added the style is dictated by the players he has at his disposal.
"I like to play 94 feet, but we have to be able to execute in the half court," he said. "(On defense) I'd like to teach man-on-man and then build from there. It depends on the personnel."
Harrell said he has set a number of goals for himself and the program.
"Our number one goal is to win the Frontier Conference and get an automatic berth to the national tournament, and if we don't do that we're looking for an at-large bid," he said. "We want to recruit student-athletes who are students first and athletes second, and we want to graduate all our kids."