The lure of the sea has been a defining attraction for C.D. Harris throughout his life, growing up amid a family operated charter boat business based in Northeast Harbor and more recently as the owner-operator of his own 40-foot schooner, Greensleeves.
But the continuing lure of basketball also has proven hard for Harris to ignore over the years, with coaching stops in Aroostook County, Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, and now as the newly hired boys basketball coach at Belfast Area High School.
“That fire always gets rekindled,” he said.
Harris, 65, replaces Marty Messer, who stepped down this spring after guiding the Lions to four regional postseason appearances during his seven seasons with the team.
“I really enjoyed working with Marty, he lives the game of basketball,” Belfast athletic administrator Matt Battani said. “He’s a great bench coach, and he brought love and enthusiasm of the game to our boys and we recognize and thank him for that service.”
Harris began his coaching career while still a student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, assisting then-Owls head coach Jesse Bedwell.
He broke into the high school coaching ranks at Limestone during the 1986-87 season, improving a team that had gone 1-17 the previous winter to 12-6 in his second and final season with the Eagles.
Harris then spent two years as a teacher and coach at Washburn District High School, where he guided the Beavers’ boys basketball team to the 1990 Class D state championship as well as a trip to the 1989 Eastern Maine final.
But the call of the ocean beckoned again, so he left that job to pursue a master’s degree at Maine Maine Maritime Academy.
“My family had been involved in the charter business for 34 years, so the whole sailing thing never left my blood,” Harris said.
Harris eventually returned to coaching as an assistant at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, where he helped the Golden Eagles qualify for the 2012 U.S. Small College Athletic Association national tournament.
Harris, who has scaled back his charter operations in recent years, learned of the Belfast coaching opening through his friendship with Brian Goff, the school’s head football coach, and decided to apply for the job after bringing Greensleeves back to Maine from a stay in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Job interviews were conducted last week.
“C.D.’s got an excellent teaching-educator background and an excellent resume as a basketball coach so we’re excited to have someone who’s an educator as well as someone who’s had competitive success as a coach,” Battani said.
“He already knows people here in town and his basketball and personal references were excellent. He’s excited to coach the Lions so it felt like a good fit for everybody.”
Harris will inherit a youthful Belfast team next season.
“I’m just tickled pink that I can help out a little bit,” he said. “I’m going to give a lot of time to the lower levels and get it going in the right direction. It’s going to take time, obviously, nothing’s going to happen with smoke and mirrors. It’s going to take a lot of work, but we want to help the kids develop the best they can and we’re going to do everything we can to enhance that.”
Messer took a Belfast varsity team that had not qualified for postseason play since 2008 and led it to a Class B preliminary-round playoff berth in 2015 and tournament quarterfinal appearances in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The Lions finished 10-8 and narrowly missed a postseason berth in 2020, the most recent season the traditional tournament was held.
Messer’s decision to leave the post will allow him more time to follow the athletic exploits of others in his family.
His wife, Meredith, is the longtime girls’ soccer coach at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport while daughter Charlotte, a former high school All-American soccer player at Camden Hills, now plays at Husson University in Bangor and younger son Quincy will be a sophomore student-athlete at Camden Hills this fall.
Messer’s other son, Casey, graduated from Camden Hills this spring after playing soccer and basketball for the Windjammers. He will enter the University of Maine this fall.
Messer said he did not rule out a return to coaching in the future.