Atnaf Harris would like to put an end to the revolving door that has spun at the top of the Roosevelt High football program for the better part of two decades.
The former Edison receiver who went on to play at Fresno State and in the NFL was hired Monday as the Rough Riders’ ninth football coach in the past 18 seasons.
Harris said he wants to be the first coach since Donnie Rea from 1994 to 1999, according to section historian Bob Barnett, to spend more than four seasons at Roosevelt.
“When I accepted the position, I told the administration that I’m in it for the long haul,” said Harris, a Fresno County probation office who will be a walk-on coach. “I want to be here 10 years. I’m looking for a home. This is not just a stint. I want to build a program inside and out. I want to build the foundation here.”
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Roosevelt is 55-122 with four winning seasons and no league titles since 2000. The most successful coach during that time was Mike Hobbie, who went 26-19 between 2007-2010.
Harris, 37, said there are three keys to turning around the program – developing character, creating discipline and instilling commitment in the players.
He has 40 players participating in summer workouts and expects another 10 or so to come out once school starts in August. Roosevelt’s first game is Aug. 26 at defending CIF State Division IV-A runner-up Chowchilla.
All the kids are positive. I already think we’re on the right track.
Roosevelt football coach Atnaf Harris
“All the kids are positive,” Harris said. “I already think we’re on the right track.”
Harris replaces Derrick Chachere, who resigned in mid-June after going 8-15 overall and 4-7 in the North Yosemite League with one playoff win in two seasons. Chachere’s son, Andre, is a former Clovis West standout entering his junior season as a starting cornerback at San Jose State.
Despite the late notice, Rough Riders athletic director Larry Lopez said it was important for the program to find a permanent coach rather than naming an interim one off Chachere’s staff, who have remained to work under Harris.
“It was something that caught us off-guard, but we felt we needed to open the position up,” Lopez said. “We went through it pretty quickly. We had a good pool of people and we felt like we got the most qualified person. Moving forward, we felt (Harris) was exactly what we needed. It’s been a great hire for us. He’s going to come in and stabilize the program.”
Harris spent two seasons in the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, where he had 26 receptions for 285 yards and four touchdowns in 23 games over three seasons. He also played parts of three seasons in the Arena Football League. He was an All-Bee selection as a senior at Edison in the fall of 1996, catching 34 passes for 667 yards and six touchdowns.
After his playing career ended, Harris went into coaching. He’s been a high school football assistant at Fresno, Roosevelt, Clovis North and most recently Edison, while also coaching Pop Warner football and AAU travel basketball. He was the passing game coordinator and a receivers coach last season at Edison.
Through hard work and dedication, he played at a higher level. And that’s what we want to stress to our kids, that with hard work and an education, you can be successful.
Roosevelt athletic director Larry Lopez
“He’s a Fresno Unified kid and an inner-city kid,” Lopez said. “Through hard work and dedication, he played at a higher level. And that’s what we want to stress to our kids, that with hard work and an education, you can be successful. That’s what’s being echoed out of our program right now.”
Harris is the second former Bulldogs player selected to coach football at a Fresno Unified school this offseason, following Brian Roberson’s hiring at McLane.