“Work hard, have fun, and always be proud to be a Demon.”
This is the advice Coach Black gives to student athletes new and old.
Born Harris Wilson Jr., Coach Black was nicknamed after a duckling given to him by his father. Although not an official coach at NSU, he lives his dream of coaching every day and is widely considered one of the university’s biggest supporters. According to a CBS feature on Black, he was still a high school student when he started work at NSU.
“One day Coach Black showed up at [then-coach] Sam Goodwin’s office and asked to be put to work,” CBS said. “Goodwin was about to have a staff meeting. He sized up Black, told him to sit by the door and make sure nobody barged in. Black did his job and has been coming back ever since. That was 1995.”
Known by his colleagues as the assistant head coach for all sports, Black spends his days mentoring his coworkers and student athletes. He can be found at practices, games and any sporting event in between. He sometimes wakes up at 5:55 a.m. and stays at work until 10 p.m.
“He’s always ready to give support when needed,” said Doug Ireland, sports information director. “Even after a team loss, he stays positive and is there to tell the team, ‘it’s ok, we’ll just work harder for next time.’”
During baseball season, Black operates the scoreboard, which his coworkers have deemed the “black board.”
Despite the long hours, Black insists his job is easy.
According to Ireland, Black is known for his sharp memory. Ireland says he knows everyone in his life not only by name but also by birthday and birthplace.
It is his memory, in fact, that first impressed Goodwin in 1995. According to CBS, he knows statistics for the Southland Conference and can relay them back without having to search the internet.
His memory extends much further than that, though. Black once told then-assistant Bradley Peveto his license plate number without ever having to go outside to check Peveto’s car.
“He’s got an intelligence that knows no boundaries,” Ireland said. “He doesn’t let it go to his head though.”
July 15 at around 11 p.m., Black awoke to find his home in flames. After escaping, he realized his 4-year-old niece and mother were still trapped inside and went back in to save them. Black and his family made way through a back window without serious injuries but lost nearly all of their belongings.
Following the fire, the Natchitoches community rallied in support of the family by donating clothes and other necessities and contributing to a GoFundMe account managed by the Demons Unlimited Foundation. The GoFundMe, which initially had a goal of $10,000, raised over $15,000 in the first 24 hours. After 72 hours, it had raised over $25,000 and by the end of the month reached a staggering $40,000.
Weeks after the fire, Black endured another tragedy when his mother died suddenly of an unexpected illness.
Ireland said Black has not let any of the recent trials he has faced bring him down. He continues coming to work every day.
“Coach Black is so positive and fun-loving,” Ireland said. “He constantly pokes fun at everyone to make them smile. His kindness is especially evident after facing trauma; he is still the same kind, hard-working person and athletics supporter.”
Black is known for his tendency to “fire” people at work, Ireland laughed. Although he does so jokingly, he always holds his coworkers accountable for their actions, encouraging them to be their best.
“He has the largest network of anyone on campus,” Ireland said. “Hang around him for just a few hours, and you’ll notice the constant buzzing of his phone or the number of greetings given to him by anyone he passes.”
NSU athletes call Black their “GLC,” or “Good Luck Charm.” Black says his favorite memories are of the pride he feels when NSU wins a game.
Likewise, Ireland attributes much of their success to Black; “I don’t know how we would get through the week without him,” he said.
April 2016 marked 20 years Black has been at NSU and 40 years since his birth. He spent his birthday in Hammond at a Demon Softball game.
Aug. 29, the athletic department honored Black with a reception where he presented a grant to the Boys & Girls Club.