RACHEL — After more than a decade of casting an imprint on North Marion High athletics as an assistant coach, Steven Harbert will now get the chance to do so as the head man. Harbert has officially been named the next head coach of North Marion boys’ basketball team following the approval of the Marion County Board of Education in Monday’s meeting.
Harbert, who has coached at North Marion as an assistant in football, boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball the past 10-plus years, will take over the Huskies’ program from Chris Freeman, who announced his resignation as NMHS boys’ basketball coach last month after 13 seasons and the most career wins in program history.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity,” said Harbert, whose coaching tenure at North Marion included two stints as an assistant under Freeman, including the past two seasons. “Chris was ready to step back and just be a dad for a while, so I kind of had a feeling that it was coming and I just wanted to make sure that I positioned myself to at least be a candidate for the position.”
Harbert, who grew up in Worthington, first joined the North Marion boys’ basketball program as an assistant coach in the late 2000s when he returned to the Fairmont area after living in Kentucky for a period. He served as the NMHS boys’ freshman coach on Freeman’s staff until switching over to the North Marion girls’ basketball program around 2014 as an assistant under coach Mike Parrish. Harbert then rejoined Freeman’s staff as an assistant coach in 2018 where he pulled double duty for a season as an assistant for both the NMHS boys’ and girls’ teams before coaching with just the boys’ team this past season. Harbert has also worked as an assistant coach for NMHS football under head coach Daran Hays for the past 11 seasons, taking on the role of defensive coordinator for the 2019 season.
“Obviously I’ve been loyal to the school for 11 years now,” said Harbert, who went to Monongah Middle School before going to Lincoln High, “and I just wanted them to know that I was on board. The hiring panel I was in front of was very professional in the interview process, and I just wanted an opportunity to at least show my vision to them.”
North Marion boys’ basketball will enter into the Harbert era after one of the program’s best-ever seasons in 2019-20 as the Huskies went 19-5 overall and had a shot to advance to the program’s first state tournament appearance since 2013 before the COVID-19 pandemic cut their season short the day of their scheduled Class AA Region I co-final game at Keyser. The 19 wins are the second most in a single season in program history.
Freeman’s resignation as the team’s coach also coincides with notable graduation losses in all-state second team guard Gunner Murphy, starting forward Michael Garrett and key reserve guard Ethan Darden as the Huskies head into Harbert’s first season.
“When Chris took over 13 years ago, he wanted to add his flavor to North Marion and he did that. Obviously, now I want to add my flavor, so there’s going to be a little bit of a change,” Harbert said. “Some stuff may look similar to what you’ve seen from teams in the past, but there are going to be some changes. I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity.”
Harbert, who has also coached basketball at Barrackville Middle as well as various North Marion High offseason teams, works as an account manager for Consolidated Electrical Distributors in Fairmont, but he’s become an ingrained member within the North Marion community through his coaching, which he’s done as both a volunteer and paid assistant with NMHS athletics.
“He’s been around the school for a long time, and he knows the kids and knows the community,” said Parrish, who is also the North Marion athletic director in addition to the girls’ basketball coach. “He brings a lot of energy and a lot of knowledge — he breaks the game down well for the kids.”
“The North Marion community, they’re 100 percent behind you, but you got to perform,” said Harbert, who won a Class AA state title with Parrish and the Lady Huskies in 2018. “I know that we’re going to have their backing, and obviously they know me — they know that I’m going to work hard at trying to create good student-athletes, not just good players. We want to make sure that we create a culture of good student-athletes off the court also.”
Harbert has been coaching either youth or prep sports in some capacity since 2002 when he was still living in Kentucky, he said. Since ‘02, he says he’s never gone a full year without coaching some sport at some level. His passion for sports and the process of molding young adults runs too deep for him to give it up, he said.
“I love the game and I love athletics, and this is just a way to keep that around and also to give back,” Harbert said of his coaching history. “I just want to give back to the community and give back to the kids. That’s the reason I do it — it’s the love for the game, it’s being around these student-athletes and helping them grow.
“That’s the most important thing to me. I told them in my interview I want to create a student-athlete who gets to the next level, and that next level doesn’t have to be college sports, the next level could be college itself, the next level could be a trade school because not everybody is college bound, the next level could be just being a great employee. That’s our job to make sure they get to the next level no matter what tier that may be.”