20161227g_spt_haeco_page coach harder and tatum (copy)

Matt Harder (left) is in his fifth season as Page boys basketball coach. The Pirates are 77-44 during his tenure.

Updated 2:30 p.m.

GREENSBORO — The bad news for Page High school is that Matt Harder won’t be back next season as boys basketball coach.

The good news for the Pirates is that he’ll be helping choose his replacement as the school’s full-time athletics director.

Harder, 31, has been sharing interim AD duties with Lindley Ivey and Debbie Jones while coaching and teaching since Rusty Lee retired at the end of September. Guilford County Schools does not allow its high school ADs to coach, so Harder has to give up his basketball duties.

“I’m taking on more of the responsibilities now,” Harder said today, “but we’re still tackling the job as a team until basketball is over.”

The basketball season has already included a third-place finish at the HAECO Invitational on Friday when senior Nate Duggins hit a baseline jump shot just before the buzzer to give the Pirates a 50-49 win over Smith. Basketball is something he’s been able to share with his father, John, a former Ragsdale and Morehead coach.

“I can’t put into words how special it’s been for the last five years to spend so much time with my dad doing something we love,” Harder said. “The tough losses, but also the moments like yesterday I get to share with my dad. It’s just an indescribable feeling.”

That’s one of the reasons the decision to take the AD’s job wasn’t an easy one.

“It’s going to be difficult at first,” he said, “because coaching is something I’ve spent most of my life doing. Being the head coach at Page High School is an exceptional honor and something I’ve been extremely grateful and happy to have the last few years. It’s always tough when you follow in the footsteps of guys like Mac Morris, Robert Kent and James Abell, the guy I took over from.”

Harder said he appreciates the opportunity Lee gave him to become a head coach at a young age and how Lee helped prepare him to become an AD. He’ll also be able to turn to his dad for advice about his new position.

“He has a unique perspective because he’s been a coach for 50 years,” Matt Harder said. “He was an AD for about 15 years at Morehead before he retired while he was coaching basketball.”

Telling his players, especially the underclassmen, that he wouldn’t be coaching next season wasn’t easy for Harder.

“There were mixed emotions,” he said. “The younger kids were a little bit upset because you build these relationships and it’s hard, but I promised them that it had nothing to do with them and … I promised them I would get them the best coach I could because I care about them.”

Harder, whose Page teams have gone 77-44, knows what he wants in his successor.

“We’re looking for someone who’s going to be a big advocate for our basketball players and Page as a whole,” he said, “someone who understands the tradition of coaching and teaching here and what that means. … We’re probably going to have a huge pool and we’ll just try to get the best person who can understand those things.”

The next coach doesn’t have to be a Page alumnus. “It definitely wouldn’t hurt,” Harder said, “but that’s not the be-all and end-all.”

He’ll work with Page Principal Erik Naglee and the rest of the administration, as he has throughout the transition, to find a new boys basketball coach and keep the Pirates’ athletics program successful.

“With Mr. Naglee and this administration and the team that we’ve had handling the athletic director duties this fall we have a shared vision for Page that will be supported for all of our student-athletes, our parents and the community as a whole,” Harder said. “That’s what we’re excited about.”

GREENSBORO — Matt Harder will step down as boys basketball coach at Page after the season to become the Pirates' full-time athletics director.

Rusty Lee retired in September after 27 years as Page's athletics director. Harder has been sharing the interim AD duties with Lindley Ivey and Debbie Jones since then while coaching basketball and teaching. Guilford County Schools does not allow its high school ADs to coach, so Harder has to give up his basketball duties.

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Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraNR on Twitter.

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