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Ex-NBA, China Olympic coach Harris wins lifetime award

China's 2004 Olympic men's basketball coach Del Harris, at left with superstar center Yao Ming, was named Friday as the National Basketball Coaches Association 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award winner
China's 2004 Olympic men's basketball coach Del Harris, at left with superstar center Yao Ming, was named Friday as the National Basketball Coaches Association 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award winner DON EMMERT AFP/File
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New York (AFP)

Del Harris, an NBA coach for 32 seasons who guided China at the 2004 Olympics, was named Friday as winner of the National Basketball Coaches Association 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The 83-year-old American served as an NBA head coach with the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers from 1979-1999 and had several stints as an assistant as well.

Harris was also one of the earliest contributors to growing basketball globally, helping five different teams internationally.

"Del Harris' impact on basketball extends beyond the NBA and transcends national borders," said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the association president.

"His success in both the NBA and international competition reflects a lifetime commitment to the global game."

Harris guided Houston to the 1981 NBA Finals and was the 1995 NBA Coach of the Year while with the Lakers, becoming the first NBA coach of Kobe Bryant and the future title tandem of Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

"It is truly a special honor to be recognized by fellow coaches," Harris said. "Being honored by my peers is particularly meaningful to me because I coached in an era that many regard to be one with the highest level of the art.

"I didn't work harder than everyone and I wasn't smarter. But here I am, deeply thankful for the blessings that have been given me."

Internationally, Harris coached Puerto Rico in the Copa Americas, assisted host Canada coach Ken Shields at the 1994 FIBA World Championships and US coach Rudy Tomjanovich at the 1998 worlds in Greece.

In 2004, Harris became the first foreign-born coach of China's national team and the squad upset Serbia and Montenegro on the way to matching their best Olympic showing by placing eighth in Athens.

In 2011 and 2012, Harris served as an assistant to coach John Calipari with the Dominican Republic national team.

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