Former Elgin all-stater Harrington hasn't lost love of basketball
It's been 21 years since Sean Harrington left Elgin High School as the program's all-time leading scorer, but the sweet-shooting, son-of-a-coach, all-stater can rattle off the important numbers like it was yesterday.
"Without looking up scores I can tell you we were 8-2 against Larkin," Harrington said from his home in Sarasota, Fla. "The Elgin-Larkin rivalry was just awesome. Completely sold out gyms every time we played them."
Born and raised in Bartlett whose dad Jim went 290-139 as Elgin's coach from 1985-2000, Sean Harrington said he doesn't have a memory that doesn't include sports. One of his best friends growing up was Deryn Carter, the current Larkin coach who Sean played Salvation Army basketball with.
By the time he got to high school Harrington knew just what he wanted to do. After a 17-11 freshman season and 19-10 as a sophomore, Harrington's junior year the Maroons went 30-2 and made the 1998 Class AA state tournament before losing to a Quentin Richardson-led Young team in the quarterfinals.
"Having grown up around the game of basketball, the state tournament was a really big deal to me because I'd watch it so often, our whole family would go every year," Harrington said. "To be able to be on really good teams, to be able to make runs was a lot of fun. How many 8-year-olds have a goal of taking your high school team downstate? To be able to do that was a special season. A lot of hard work went into that."
After another regional title as a senior, Harrington turned to college basketball. He chose the University of Illinois, and was a key part of one of the best four-year stretches in school history.
Harrington scored 750 career points averaging 5.7 a game including 6.4 as a junior and 7.3 his senior season. He shot 42.8% from 3-point range, making 191 in 132 games, and had 222 assists with only 83 turnovers playing with Frank Williams, Sergio McClain, Marcus Griffin, Brian Cook, Lucas Johnson, Dee Brown, Deron Williams and more.
Recruited by Lon Kruger and playing his final three years for Bill Self, Harrington's Illinois teams finished fourth, first, second and first in the Big Ten, advancing to the Elite Eight, Sweet 16 and twice the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Harrington said he's proudest of their 51-2 home record -- best of any school in the country during that stretch.
"We put on our championship rings 'Defend the Hall, 51-2,' " Harrington said. "Just an incredible stretch. Very fortunate to be part of four great teams. A coaching change you never know how it's going to work out but it worked out great in our situation. Winning Big Ten championships is incredible. We had thousands of people waiting for us at the airport at midnight -- you don't forget those experiences."
After coaching stints at Kansas, St. Louis and four years both at NIU under Rob Judson and at Illinois under Bruce Weber, Harrington said he got tired of the non-basketball parts of coaching.
Harrington started broadcasting games in 2013 for ESPN, and he still calls American Conference games. He moved to Florida five years ago, first working for a sporting goods company and now as a pharmaceutical rep. He's married to Christine, an Illini cheerleader from Oswego, and the couple has three children -- James, who just turned 9, 6-year-old Charlotte, and Andrew, 3.
Surprise, surprise all three already are into a variety of sports, from soccer to tennis to golf to gymnastics, and yes, a little basketball.
"I'm sure my dad being a coach had a huge influence on my sports but I really believe people just have their passions," Harrington said. "I just remember loving to watch his practices and games, I remember loving to play it in the basement and Nerf hoops in bedrooms and watching on TV any chance I got. It's in my DNA and I love it. Everyone has their passions and sports is mine and it's as far back as I can remember."