Wright on target: New Bartlesville High School football coach on campus and hard at work

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New Bartlesville High head football coach Harry Wright is greeted by well-wishers during Tuesday's home varsity basketball game. Wright, a product of Eufaula High and former Bacone College All-American, becomes the 11th head coach in the 40-year history of Bruin football.
New Bartlesville High head football coach Harry Wright is greeted by well-wishers during Tuesday's home varsity basketball game. Wright, a product of Eufaula High and former Bacone College All-American, becomes the 11th head coach in the 40-year history of Bruin football.

Pursuing the head coaching football position at Bartlesville High was more than a hunch for Harry Wright.

For several years, he wanted to be here — really wanted to be here.

But, the door of opportunity remained closed until now.

On Monday, the Bartlesville School Board approved the recommendation to hire Wright as the 11th head coach in Bruin football history.

He brings in a wealth of experience as a former college All-American and several years of coaching on the prep level.

Wright had been coaching at Lonoke High School — where in three seasons as head coach he guided the team to a conference championship and a conference runner-up spot — when the Bartlesville position came open last December after the resignation of Jason Sport.

Wright already has strong family ties to Washington County and a winning impression of Bartlesville.

“The opportunity in Bartlesville was one I couldn’t pass up,” Wright told the E-E. “Going back to college, my roommate was from this area and that’s how I met my wife (a Copan High graduate). I’ve been in-and-out of Bartlesville several times the last 20 years and I always thought this would be a good place to raise a family.”

Wright and his wife Lauren are raising a nine-year-old son Evan.

Wright and his wife have family in Copan and Bartlesville.

'Excited for him': Harry Wright set to come on board as new Bartlesvillle football coach

“Her dad’s been here forever, his whole life, basically,” he said, adding his wife’s sister is a Bartlesville High graduate.

Having so many loved ones nearby “is something that really tipped the scales for us,” Wright said. “It’s nice being right here instead of five hours away.”

Wright — who has already started his coaching job at Bartlesville — is looking to forward to developing the Bruin program.

“Just looking at last year’s roster I see that they started several freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “That’s exciting for the future.”

He’s also happy about Bartlesville’s new district landscape, in which Class 6A-II bully Bixby has been promoted to Class 6A-I and Choctaw has been switched to the other district.

Junior receiver Eli Lino holds on to a catch for the Bartlesville High Bruin varsity football team during one of its impressive offensive drives last season against Muskogee.
Junior receiver Eli Lino holds on to a catch for the Bartlesville High Bruin varsity football team during one of its impressive offensive drives last season against Muskogee.

Not that Wright expects the Bruins’ retooled district lineup to be easy, but he believes the team has a chance to be more competitive.

“I’m excited to see how those kids develop,” he said about the Bruins. “I met several freshmen today and they passed the eye test. I’m looking forward to getting to know them … and to see what kind of a football team we can put together.”

Wright understands winning football.

Hailing from Eufaula, he played at Bacone College during the decade of 2000, where he earned All-American kudos on the offensive line.

Wright played from 2004 through 2007 for Bacone.

Coming out of college he served as an assistant at Madill High School and, after a couple of other stops, went to McAlester High School and served as the defensive coordinator.

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“I had pretty good run there,” Wright said.

In 2015, McAlester played in the Class 5A state semifinals — the same year Bartlesville finished 10-2 and played in the 6A-II state semifinals.

He transferred from McAlester to serve as the defensive coordinator at Bentonville (Ark.) West High, a 7A program.

Bentonville West trice finished as conference runner-up during Wright’s tenure.

In late 2018/early 2019 he interviewed for the head coaching opening at Bartlesville High, but the job went to Sport.

Wright returned to Arkansas as head coach at Lonoke.

Through the 2021 season, Wright had worked seven years in Arkansas and eight years in Oklahoma as a coach.

Given the right personnel set, “I’m probably more on the aggressive side on both sides of the football,” Wright said. “Here, recently we ran the spread because we had the good athletes.”

Defensively, Wright’s preference is a 3-4 attack.

“But, it really rolls around to what the kids can do successfully,” Wright said. “There are years when I run more and years when I throw more. … It depends on the pieces.”

Wright already has met with both players and assistant coaches at Bartlesville.

“For the next week and a half I want to be a fly on the wall. … I want to judge where the program is now, and judge what guys we have coming back and how they work.”

That includes both players and staff members, he said. “I’m excited about getting to work with these guys (assistants) and see what kind of staff we can put together, …

Football is football regardless of whether it’s in Oklahoma, Arkansas or wherever.”

He sees the game of football as an asset in building life skills for players.

“You learn how to work as a team and how to be part of a team,” he said. “How to work hard and learn lessons that will carry you through life. … A sport that teaches you stuff like that is positive.”

At the same time, Wright said leaving leaving his players at Lonoke is not easy.

“It was a good place and it was a tough move,” he said. “I had some good kids there and a good team coming back. They were very good to me there, very supportive. But, the opportunity to work in Bartlesville was something I couldn’t pass up.”

Wright takes charge of a Bruin program that has struggled the past six seasons to develop winning traction.

Since the school-record 10-2 season in 2015, Bartlesville’s cumulative record is 16-43, including an 8-23 mark the past three years.

Bartlesville has been to the playoffs only once the past six seasons, in 2020 when the OSSAA opened up the postseason to every team due to the uncertainty of the number of available teams due to the virus protocols.

Bartlesville has qualified for the playoffs five times the past 20 seasons (2002, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015). The Bruins won two playoff games during that time, against Owasso (2009) and Midwest City (2015).

The Bruins came up just shy of running the table (10-0) during the 2015 regular season.

They stunned Bixby on the Spartans’ home field, 50-33, during a massive second half rally triggered by Nate Hansen’s pick-six. Ironically, Hansen was lost from full duty for the rest of the season when he was injured on the play.

Later during the season, the Bruins had Tulsa Washington on the ropes, with the score tied, 14-14, late in the fourth quarter and Bartlesville knocking on the door of the Washington end zone.

But, the Bruins lost the ball on a fumble and Washington drove most the length of the field in the final couple of minutes to kick the game-winning field goal.

This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: Bartlesville High decides on new head football coach Harry Wright

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