Ty Harrelson Named Head Coach at Wayland Baptist

Former Wayland Baptist All-American Ty Harrelson has been hired as head coach of the men’s basketball program.

“I’m thrilled to have someone with Ty’s record of success and strong ties to the university take over our men’s basketball program,” WBU Director of Athletics Rick Cooper said. “I believe our program is in very good hands, and we are very excited to have Coach Harrelson as part of our team once again here at Wayland.”

Harrelson, 34, will be introduced to the media and public at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the lobby of Hutcherson Center.

Harrelson, who played two seasons at Wayland from 2001-03 and holds multiple school records, comes to Wayland after playing and coaching professional basketball the past 12 years, most recently in Australia.

“I wouldn’t have come back just to coach anywhere. Wayland has a special place in my heart,” Harrelson said. “I have a really strong passion to have the team play at a high level. I want to see the success that Coach Garnett has built and the history of the program continue.”

Garnett resigned last month after four successful seasons as coach of the Pioneers in order to leave full-time coaching and become an elementary teacher in Fort Worth.

Harrelson and Garnett have been friends since meeting at Wayland when Harrelson transferred his junior season and Garnett was a freshman. In fact, the two were roommates at WBU.

“I was really happy a few years ago when Coach Garnett became the coach,” Harrelson said. “He did a tremendous job. The last few years Wayland basketball has been fantastic because of the hard work he put in.”

Likewise, Garnett said he is thrilled that Harrelson is his successor as the 12th head coach in the 67-year history of the program.

“I am excited for the university and the current Pioneer players that Ty has been chosen to come home and lead the Pioneers,” Garnett said. “Ty is not only an excellent coach, he is a quality person. He will do a great job leading the Pioneer basketball program into the future.”

Harrelson said Garnett even picked him up at the airport when he flew in for his interview a few days ago.

“This is my first time coaching college basketball and there are some different aspects to it, and Matt’s been very helpful to me during this transition.”

The son of parents who played college basketball at Texas State, Harrelson graduated from Wichita Falls Rider High School where he played under his father, Scott, who later served as an assistant coach under Todd Thurman at Wayland when Ty was playing for the Pioneers. (Scott now is retired and lives in Lampasas). In high school, Ty scored 2,786 points, which at that time ranked 18th on the all-time scoring list in Texas.

Harrelson said he was considered “too weak” and “too slow” to play basketball at some major universities, so he went to Collin County Community College in Plano and Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., before transferring to Wayland.

“About that time I had lost the passion to even play basketball. I just wanted to get my business degree and start working,” Harrelson recalled.

But his love of the game was reignited at Wayland, in large part, he said, because of Thurman.

“He gave me a hug and I knew he cared about me, not only as a basketball player but a person,” Harrelson said.

He turned in two stellar seasons with the Pioneers. In his first season, Harrelson, a point-guard, helped the team return to the NAIA National Championships for the first time in a decade. They went back again the next season and posted another 20-win season.

Harrelson earned All-Sooner Athletic Conference honors both seasons, and as a senior in 2003 was voted Wayland’s first-ever NAIA First-Team All-American. For his WBU career he scored 1,111 points and today is tied for 28th on the Pioneers’ scoring list.

Harrelson still holds school records for highest assist average in a season (6.8), most assists in a game (15), and best free throw percentage for a season (88.8).

That success led Harrelson to play professional basketball over the next several years in Italy, Mexico, Germany, Finland and Hungary, as well as with the ABA’s Fresno Heat Wave in California. He earned numerous honors and awards, including FIBA EuroBasketball Guard of the Year.

In 2010 he moved to Australia to continue his playing career, and he was named State Basketball League Point Guard of the Year. In 2013 he became player/head coach of the South West Slammers, immediately transforming that team from the bottom of the league into the playoffs for the first time in more than 12 years while averaging close to a triple-double.

The Slammers are winding down the current season and once again will make the playoffs. Harrelson, who is averaging close to 22 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, said he will return to Australia – where he became a citizen in 2014 while maintaining U.S. citizenship – for the post-season while at the same time transitioning as the Pioneers’ new coach.

“I’ll probably go back and forth a couple of times over the next few weeks,” he said.

Harrelson most recently was in Plainview in January 2014 when he was recognized for being inducted into the WBU Athletics Hall of Honor, as well as for providing the lead gift for renovating the Pioneers’ locker room.

Upon learning of Garnett’s resignation, Harrelson said he immediately knew he was interested in coming back to Wayland as the men’s basketball head coach.

“The opportunity to play and coach in Australia at the professional level is great. I couldn’t ask for anything more. But the opportunity to come back to Texas and coach at my alma mater was something I really wanted to do. I was just excited to be offered an interview.

“My club back in Australia has helped make this transition very smooth, and that makes me feel good about things.”

Harrelson said he is in the process of assembling a coaching staff and finalizing his roster.

“I’m very excited. It’s a team bringing back six or seven guys who won the Sooner Athletic Conference championship. I can’t say enough about what they’ve done. They have experience and know what it takes to be successful. I hope to continue to push them.

“Coach Garnett had a great list that he was recruiting, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring in a couple of guys over the next few weeks and put together a strong team.”


Photo Courtesy WBU Athletics

updated B180 Logo

Tagged with: