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Salem's Harrell starts off with a victory
Noah Harrell guides his team in his first game as head coach at Salem’s home gym Nov. 16. The Salem Seminoles beat Meadowcreek 79-77 at home, before falling 55-39 to Allatoona Saturday. - photo by Darrell Everidge

Noah Harrell may have just two games under his belt as head varsity coach, but they’ve been enough to prove he’s ready.

Harrell takes over after serving as an assistant for Darren Wilkens, who took the job as Salem’s athletic director this summer.

In his first game, Harrell led the Salem Seminoles to a 79-77 victory, which required his tutelage down the stretch. The game came down to a late surge by Salem, in which Harrell had to guide his team during time outs and make the substitutions and adjustments needed to secure a victory.

“I was proud of the fact that in the last two minutes, we rallied round each other when we were down by seven with under two minutes to go and still stood in there together and pulled out a good team victory,” Harrell said. “I’m extremely proud of our guys not dropping our heads.”

Dedrick Turner finished with 26 points, Jamal Garror added 19 and Ahmad Mitchell, who had the game-winning basket, had 11 to help Harrell to his first varsity win.

“From the standpoint of being my first game, it was a nice way to have my first game go,” Harrell said.
Though it’s Harrell’s first year as varsity coach he has been with the program since 2008 and has had successful stints with the ninth grade and junior varsity teams.

Throughout his four seasons at Salem, he has put together a 45-5 record, going 12-0 with the ninth grade team in 2008 and 10-1, 12-1 and 12-3 with the junior varsity teams, while also working as an assistant to Wilkens.

With that kind of record, Wilkens didn’t need to look very far when hiring a successor this season.

“That’s the thing that helped me get the varsity job, on the sub-varsity level, over four seasons going 4-5-5,” Harrell said.
Stepping in, not only does Harrell have the pedigree but also the familiarity and respect of the current Seminoles.
 Having coached each player either as freshmen, junior varsity or varsity players, he already knows what his players can or cannot do in putting together a style for the 2012-13 Seminoles.

“I have a lot of familiarity with these guys, being assistant on varsity last year and a head coach in their ninth grade and J.V.,” Harrell said. “I’ve built relationships with all these guys. They know me as coach and I know them as players, so the transition hasn’t been as difficult.”

Last Friday proved that when he turned a new situation into a victory.

“Doing it on the ninth grade and J.V. level is not like it is on the varsity level,” Harrell said.  “Seeing the crowds and having the crowd behind you and everything is very beneficial to keeping the guys motivated.”

Keeping his players motivated is partially why Harrell got involved in coaching in the first place, but not necessarily just on the basketball court.

After graduating from the University of Georgia to become a teacher, he saw a way to teach outside the classroom as well.

Knowing how coaches can influence young students drew him to another form of classroom.

“I always grew up loving basketball,” Harrell said. “I felt like it was another outlet for us as teachers, where I can reach out to these young men in different area; that’s what drew me to coaching, and I’m hopefully making a positive impact on these young men’s lives.”

He originally came to Salem as a baseball coach, after taking a job as a long-term substitute teacher at Victory Christian after graduating from UGA in 2007.

While at Victory Christian, he reached out to former Salem Athletic Director Jim McBreyer, who hired him as the ninth-grade baseball coach.

When the ninth grade basketball job came open, Harrell jumped sports to the one he preferred.

Since then he has been on a track to coach varsity basketball, and showed against Meadowcreek he was ready for the challenge.