Harris Ray Wilson, Jr., known affectionately at Northwestern State as “Coach Black,” is the first smiling face to greet opponents as they set foot in NSU’s athletics venues.
Southland Conference member schools and the conference office as well as countless NSU fans smiled back when Coach Black and his family were in need.
More than $40,000 has been donated since Black’s grandmother’s house, which was his primary residence, burned in July.
Other gifts including clothing, furniture and bedding have allowed Black to move comfortably into his sister’s home.
Nearly every conference school or individuals from member schools donated to the Coach Black relief effort.
“My family and I want to say thanks to everybody for everything,” Black said. “It’s helped a lot.”
Central Arkansas was the most recent to contribute, and Black went on a shopping spree with a Wal-Mart gift card this past week.
Coach Black escaped a fire at his grandmother’s house before realizing his niece and his mother were still inside.
The 40-year-old returned to the home and helped them escape, garnering status as a “Hometown Hero” from the The Modern Woodmen of America. The organization made a donation to the Natchitoches Boyd and Girls Club in Black’s honor.
Coach Black was also honored as the Exchange Bank Demon Great of the Game on Sept. 13 during the home opening football game against Lamar.
He’s unofficially known as the assistant head coach for all sports with the unique ability to “fire” anybody and everybody he wants, only to bring them back within minutes.
Coach Black also has another nickname, “The Commissioner,” for his far-reaching influence and impact.
“Coach Black is one of the most resilient people I’ve ever seen,” said NSU men’s basketball coach Mike McConathy, dean of SLC basketball coaches in his 19th season. “He has a great gift of being able to put things behind him and to move forward with enthusiasm.
“He has a tremendous support group in his family and also around this community. Coach Black is loved and revered by so many people. I’ve seen the outpouring of love from so many, and it’s because he is so giving with his love and affection to everyone who crosses his path.”
More than $25,000 was raised within 48 hours of the fire.
Coach Black’s deep involvement with NSU Athletics extends off campus. He is also actively engaged with both local high schools, his alma mater Natchitoches Central and St. Mary’s, and is a beloved figure around state and Southland Conference athletic circles.
Returning the kindness to Coach Black and his family is one more way the SLC is #SouthlandStrong.