Harrington returns ‘home’ to Champaign as Illini basketball coach

Harrington Steve Contorno

Harrington Steve Contorno

By Jeremy Werner

Sean Harrington’s atlas has gotten plenty of use after moving three times in the past four years. But when Harrington joined Bruce Weber’s staff, the former Illini shooting guard didn’t need a map to know the way to Champaign.

“This is home,” Harrington said. “There’s no question about that. It feels like home. Just driving up you don’t need directions to get here, you just knew how to get here.”

Harrington will serve on the Illinois coaching staff in the visiting academic position of basketball operations. Harrington rejoins the Illini program after serving as the director of basketball operations at St. Louis University under head coach Rick Majerus last year.

Harrington also spent three seasons – one as an assistant coach and two as director of basketball operations – at Northern Illinois University from 2005-07. Harrington started his career as an administrative assistant at Kansas under former Illinois coach Bill Self in 2004.

Harrington said he always envisioned staying around basketball, not surprising for the son of a coach. Harrington played for his father, Jim, at Elgin High School.

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    “I’ve been in the gym since I could walk,” Harrington said. “I love playing, but I just knew deep down I’d never want to be away from the game. I just wanted to continue to be around it and keep coaching.”

    During his time as an undergraduate, Harrington was best known for his accuracy from beyond the arc. Harrington’s 42.8 3-point shooting percentage ranks sixth in the Illinois record books. He accumulated 750 career points and 99 victories from 2000-03 with the Illini.

    Asked if he could still keep up with the 2008-09 Illini on the court, Harrington responded skeptically.

    “I think maybe in a H-O-R-S-E contest I’d be alright, but I think if I had to go up and down I think I’d be in some trouble.”

    Harrington joins the Illini staff a year after former teammate Jerrance Howard took a job as an assistant coach. Harrington said he and Howard dreamed about coaching at Illinois when they were teammates. He added that Howard will “help show me the ropes and teach me what he’s learned.”

    “We were really close when we were in school,” Harrington said of Howard. “I was excited for him when he was driving here last year, and he was all excited (for me). … He knows what I’m feeling because he went through it last year. It’s good to reunite with him again.”

    Harrington will manage many day-to-day activities for the Illini, including traveling. But he’ll also take time to learn from Weber, just as he did from former Illinois coach Lon Kruger, Self, Majerus and NIU coach Rob Judson.

    “The four coaches I’ve worked for are completely different coaches,” Harrington said. “They’ve all been successful, and they’ve done it different ways. So I think that shows there’s not just one way to do things. All four work extremely hard. I think that’s one thing they all have in common.

    “I try to take a little bit from each coach, and I’m looking forward to working with Coach Weber and checking out his philosophy as well.”