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Matt Harder to step down as Page AD

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Matt Harder (left) was Page’s head boys basketball coach from 2014-2019 and has served as the Pirates’ athletics director since March 2019.

GREENSBORO — Page High School is a special place for Matt Harder. He’s had success there as the Pirates’ boys basketball coach and as the school’s athletics director, he’s taught at the school and he’s forged friendships that will last a lifetime.

That’s why it will be difficult for Harder to walk away from the school where he’s worked since 2013 at the end of this month.

“This was 100 percent my decision,” Harder said of his impending departure. “This is what I felt was right for me at this juncture in my life.”

But it wasn’t easy.

“I love Page High School more than anything, and this place means so much to me,” said Harder, who teaches honors Civics at the school. “The people I’ve gotten to know, from the students to the athletes and staff and administration, the coaches, the booster club and the community ...”

Erik Naglee, Page’s principal, wrote in an email that he and his staff “will be working on a transition plan in regards to an interim AD in the next few weeks.”

Harder, who played basketball for his father, John, at Morehead High School in Eden and graduated from Appalachian State in 2010, came to Page as a teacher and assistant basketball coach in 2013. When James Abell stepped down as head coach in 2014 to spend more time with his family, Harder took over.

In five seasons, his teams went 81-53 and reached a NCHSAA Class 4-A semifinal in his first year. After Rusty Lee retired as Page’s AD in September 2018, Harder, Debbie Jones and Lindley Ivey shared the duties on an interim basis before Harder took over full-time at the end of basketball season in March 2019 and stepped down as coach because Guilford County Schools does not allow its high school ADs to also coach.

In the 3½ years Harder has been Page’s AD, “great things have been accomplished,” Naglee said, while also weathering the COVID-19 pandemic and a number of losses, including the deaths of Pirates football player Sincere Davis and girls soccer coach Tim Nash.

Among the accomplishments Harder is most proud of, “with the help of the booster club,” are:

Installation of video boards at Marion Kirby Stadium and Mac Morris Gym to help fund the program through advertising.

The addition of artificial turf that has been approved for Marion Kirby Stadium and which will be funded through private donations.

The hiring of a number of successful coaches who are “passionate and their heart’s in the right place,” Harder said. “They’re genuinely here because they love what they do and they love our kids.”

The establishment of a Page athletics hall of fame, which inducted its second class in September.

“But what I’m most proud of is that I tried to give 100 percent to all of our sports and tried to make it a better place where all athletes and teams felt valued,” he said. “I tried to support everybody in the best possible way that I could.”

One of the coaches Harder hired, Evan Fancourt, felt that support in what could have been an awkward situation as his successor.

“He did a great job of never making me feel the pressure of the ex-basketball coach, now the AD, looking over my shoulder,” Fancourt said. “If anything, it was me going to him to ask what he saw. He was a really good support system and a guy who let me run my program and have a lot of freedom, but was certainly there to support me and offer advice.”

Now Harder will leave behind a place where he has invested so much and built such strong relationships.

“Two of my very best friends in life are because of Page High School,” Harder said, referencing Justin Scarbro and Robert Hogewood. “It wouldn’t have been possible without teaching and coaching at Page.”

What’s next for Harder, who is still just 35 years old?

“I want to spend more time with my family,” he said. “I want to travel. I want to re-evaluate and take some time to figure out the next steps in my journey, professionally and personally.

“That’s what it came down to. Page deserves the absolute best, and I just think it’s time for another person to come in and take control of the Pirate ship and keep it moving.”

Harder doesn’t know who his successor will be, but they will inherit “a great position right now.”

“You’ve got a supportive administration that cares about academics first and also understands the value of athletics,” he said. “(Naglee) has been an incredible leader for our school and mentor for me, and I think the world of him for giving me this opportunity. … Whoever steps in as the next AD is going to have a great opportunity to be successful. There are so many positive things going on here.”

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

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