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Needing a head coach, Auburn selects Johnnie Harris from Vic Schaefer's staff at Texas

Texas associate head coach Johnnie Harris (left) and head coach Vic Schaefer (right) watch Kyra Lambert shoot against Idaho in Austin on Dec. 9, 2020. Harris will be the next head coach at Auburn.

After a season in the Big 12, Johnnie Harris is heading back to the SEC.

Auburn announced on Saturday that Harris will be the seventh head coach in the history of its women's basketball program. This past season, Harris was an associate head coach for a Texas team that reached the fourth round of the NCAA Tournament.

Before Vic Schaefer was hired as the head coach at Texas, Harris was his assistant for eight seasons at Mississippi State. Harris has also worked at Texas A&M and Arkansas.

In a statement, Harris said "It is humbling and exciting to join an athletic program that is as welcoming, passionate and committed to success as Auburn, and I can't wait to start building this program to be among the best in the Southeastern Conference." 

This is the first head coaching job for Harris. Last year, she was a finalist for the Mississippi State vacancy that Schaefer's departure created.

Harris told reporters this past spring that she had previously turned down offers to be the head coach at smaller schools. In order to leave Schaefer's bench, she insisted that "it would have to be the right situation.” The right situation presented itself with the Tigers.

Auburn went 5-19 this past season, and the Tigers did not win a game in conference play. After ending the season on a 17-game losing streak, Terri Williams-Flournoy was fired. During Williams-Flournoy's nine-year tenure, Auburn reached the NCAA Tournament in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

At Texas, Harris was responsible for mentoring post players like Charli Collier and Lauren Ebo. She was to be paid $300,000 for the 2020-21 academic year.

"There's nobody that's going to work harder than her to do the job that's necessary (at Auburn) right now and restore that program to where it needs to be," Schaefer told the American-Statesman. "She's a great person they're going to find in that community, she's going to be incredible. She's not only going to enhance the community but she's going to enhance that university and enhance the state of Alabama. She's ready, she's been ready."

This marks the second time that Schaefer has lost an assistant to a head coaching gig. Elena Lovato left Mississippi State for Arkansas-Fort Smith in 2016. After two seasons, Lovato returned to Mississippi State and is now a part of Schaefer's staff at Texas. (Former Schaefer assistant Aqua Franklin is currently the head coach at Lamar, but she was not working for Schaefer when she got that job).

When asked how Texas will replace Harris, Schaefer said "I can go a number of different ways and it's exciting." A hire likely won't be made anytime soon, though.

"I've only had to do this two or three times and each time I've literally taken months," Schaefer said. "I just really take my time or make sure I get the right person, make sure they fit my staff, fit our everything about what we do and how we do it."