Tim ‘Ice’ Harris makes restoring Miami’s football luster a personal matter

Tim Harris (right) is the Hurricanes' running back coach.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — His name is Tim Harris and everyone calls him "Ice," a nickname that was born decades ago from his affinity for George "The Iceman" Gervin.

Years ago, Harris would try to copy Gervin’s game on the basketball court.

Now, Harris is trying to copy the real glory days of Miami Hurricanes football.

A longtime high school coach in Miami with plenty of success, Harris is now the Hurricanes’ running back coach — and this might be the most critical time of his year. He’s a key part of Miami’s efforts to restore a stranglehold on recruiting in South Florida, maybe the most talent-rich part of the country and a place that the Hurricanes once could get whomever they wanted.

"This is very personal for me," Harris said. "I think we’re close to putting this all together, getting back to that level of success, showing the country and the city of Miami who were are, and I’ve got tears in my eyes right now even thinking about it. That’s how passionate I am about getting to where we’re supposed to be."

Harris isn’t in a very high-profile role; he’s not a coordinator, doesn’t meet with the media often and likes to keep things relatively low-key anyway.

But he knows recruiting, first from being a high school coach who was hearing constantly from big-time programs about his players, and now from the other side of the equation. And with signing day looming on Feb. 4, there’s no days off for Harris right now — as Miami and just every other school in the nation looks to South Florida as they round out their recruiting classes.

"In Miami, and I even thought this as a high school coach, we’re making it too easy for everybody else to come down here and get kids," Harris said. "I hope Miami will be the first option. We can’t get them all, but we hope it’s an option."

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Harris has been back with the Hurricanes for nearly a year. He was on Miami’s staff from 2008 through 2010, then went back to his previous job as the head coach at Miami’s Booker T. Washington High — where he had a 99-10 record and won three state titles in his two stints.

Miami coach Al Golden hired him last March, first to work in operations and then as an assistant coach. Many of Miami’s best years have come when the Hurricanes were the go-to school for players in their own backyard, and Harris is trying to make that the case again.

"Miami needs to be at the top because that’s what our city deserves," Harris said. "Everybody thinks it’s supposed to be easy. It’s not."

Former Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger coined the phrase "State of Miami" as he was leading the Hurricanes toward the 1983 national title, the first of five that the school would win in 19 seasons. It meant that getting the best players in the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach county areas would be an annual priority for the Hurricanes.

The priority has never changed. The success rate has.

And that’s one of many reasons why Miami isn’t the same program now that it was in those glory days. The Hurricanes finished on a four-game losing streak and were 6-7 this season, once again ending a year without an Atlantic Coast Conference title or a bowl win.

To change that around, the Hurricanes need some help to arrive when signing day comes, and Harris is hoping at least some of the answers are nearby.

"We’re going to get this thing done," Harris said.