Jason Harrigan plans to keep a spare whistle at St. Joseph’s Prep practices just in case the most iconic coach in Philadelphia high school basketball history stops by.
Harrigan, who led Del Val Charter to the Philadelphia Public League title in 2016, on Friday was named the new basketball coach at St. Joseph’s Prep. He replaces Speedy Morris, the local legend who resigned because of health concerns at the end of last season after 18 years with the Hawks.
“I plan on leaning a ton on Speedy,” Harrigan said. “Not just for learning about the Prep, but mostly for basketball. He probably has more basketball knowledge in his pinky than I have.
"I’ll have a spare whistle for him anytime he wants to come visit.”
Harrigan spent five seasons at Del Val Charter, which is now closed, and also was the head coach at Cardinal O’Hara for two seasons from 2016-18.
“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Harrigan said. “The Prep has such a great reputation as an institution. It’s an opportunity for young men to get an elite education as well as be involved in elite athletics.”
A graduate of Florida A&M University, Harrigan holds a degree in finance and worked at JP Morgan Chase before leaving to pursue a career in education. He was a math teacher for 10 years and currently is a positive behavior intervention and support coach with the School District of Philadelphia.
Harrigan probably is stepping into the biggest shoes in Philadelphia high school coaching history. Morris’ teams at St. Joseph’s Prep went 366-140. His final team went 13-12, losing, 57-45, to Reading in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs March 7 at Kutztown University.
Overall, Morris compiled a 1,035-455 record in 52 seasons, including stops at Roman Catholic, Penn Charter and St. Joseph’s Prep at the high school level and with the La Salle University men’s and women’s programs.
Morris made his mark at every stop, setting the record for best career winning percentage at Roman Catholic; guiding Penn Charter to the Inter-Ac League title; leading the La Salle women to the first NCAA tournament appearance in program history; establishing the school standard for career victories with the La Salle men as well as for St. Joseph’s Prep.
“I’m going to lean on Speedy and Keith [Morris’ son and long-time assistant coach] to help bridge the gap,” Harrigan said.
Harrigan said coaching at St. Joseph’s Prep creates an “opportunity that’s bigger than basketball” because of the ability to connect with the community.
“That’s something that’s very important to me,” Harrigan said.
Harrigan will face a rebuilding task as St. Joseph’s Prep was a veteran team last season, with junior guard Jimmy King as the lone non-senior starter. Junior guard Richard Thomas also was a key contributor.
Harrigan’s O’Hara teams went 16-29 overall, 5-21 in Philadelphia Catholic League play. The Lions improved from 5-18 to 11-12 overall and from 0-13 to 5-8 in the league in his second season.
Harrigan spent five seasons as the coach at now-closed Del Val Charter in the city’s Logan section. His 2015-16 team won the Philadelphia Public League title, beating Constitution, 84-74, at St. Joseph’s University’s Hagan Arena.
The Warriors also won the PIAA District 12, Class 3A title that season.
Harrigan also has been active in the area AAU scene. In the spring of 2019, he was the head coach of Philadelphia-based Team Final 14U team that featured Camden’s D.J. Wagner, one of the top players in the country in the class of 2023.
Harrigan served as an assistant coach at Camden High under former head coach Vic Carstarphen during the 2018-19 season and under current coach Rich Brunson during the 2019-20 season.