Harriman

Avery Harriman, 7, of Lincoln, son of former Nebraska assistant basketball coach Chris Harriman, waves to the crowd as he and four other young bone marrow transplant recipients are introduced before the game against Michigan State. Avery's mother, Cheryl, and sister, Elsie, stand nearby.

LINCOLN — Things happen fast in the coaching business.

Like for Chris Harriman, who one week is tracking down recruits as a Nebraska assistant coach and the next is the associate head coach at New Mexico.

“This has been so crazy. I’m still trying to get an email address,” he said Friday after flying from Lincoln to Denver on his way to his new home in Albuquerque.

Even through the blur of a job change and preparations to move a wife and three children 900 miles, Harriman wanted to stop and thank the state of Nebraska.

“I’m not sure this isn’t the best place we’ve ever lived,” said the native of Australia who has played or coached in Georgia, Florida and Missouri. “It’s not because of beaches or thousands of restaurants. It’s the people.”

Many people at NU, in Lincoln and statewide have embraced the Harrimans during their son Avery’s battle with leukemia, which has hit three times in his eight years of life.

“I don’t have the words to describe how thankful we are,” Harriman said. “I’m not sure we could have got through what we’ve been through with Avery if not in Nebraska.”

Friday was Day 217 since Avery’s stem-cell transplant, which came after a previous bone-marrow transplant. The medications he’s taking are powerful and expensive, but are working.

“Avery’s journey is never over,” Harriman said. “It’s something we’ll have to deal with the rest of our lives.”

So as hard as it will be to leave day-to-day supporters in Lincoln, and the doctors and staff at Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Harriman said, care will go on at UNM Children’s Hospital on the New Mexico campus.

“When you make a decision like this, you’ve got to take the emotional piece out of it,” he said. “It’s hard because we’re so grateful for everything everyone there has done for us, but I think this is best for me and my family.”

This move is about Harriman wanting to become a major-college head coach.

“That’s why I’m in it,” he said. “I’ve always thought it would be easier from the western part of the country because of my recruiting ties, but there has never been a good job out West I was excited about until now.”

Going from assistant at Nebraska to associate head coach at New Mexico is not — as some have tried to paint it — a lateral move.

Yes, New Mexico is in the Mountain West Conference, but it made more money in men’s basketball in 2013-14 than Nebraska of the Big Ten ($2.29 million to $2.12 million). The Lobos’ home arena — The Pit — also is nationally known and has hosted a Final Four.

In short, this is “a basketball school.”

“And New Mexico has a great brand in Australia,” Harriman said. “They’ve had more Australians go to the NBA than any other college. I consider it a Top 25 job.”

Harriman, 35, said he hasn’t set a goal to be a head coach by a certain age.

“I just want to make sure my first job is one I’m excited about,” he said. “Plus, I’m still really young, all things considered.”

Leaving Nebraska after a 13-18 season isn’t a sign of waning confidence in Husker coach Tim Miles or the team.

“I know it’s been an interesting spring with some departures and guys putting their name in for the draft,” Harriman said. “But I think Coach Miles has it right where he wants it in terms of the type of kids coming in.”

Growing pains will accompany the assembling of a team with six newcomers, with two scholarships still open.

“But I think there will be a lot more guys willing to buy into their role,” Harriman said. “There will be more guys who will allow Coach Miles to play the way he wants — more ball movement and less dribbling.

“It will be a much different team, but I think they’ll be better and deeper. I’m excited about what he’s got going on.”

One of Harriman’s new duties at New Mexico is scheduling. He laughed when I suggested a Nebraska-vs.-New Mexico series.

“I would love to come back to Nebraska,” he said. “I’m not sure I’d want to be the opposing team at Pinnacle Bank Arena. But I’d love to come back and hang out.”

Deal. We’ll leave the light on, keep the drinks cold and maintain the prayers for Avery.

Contact the writer:

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.