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Basketball: Sean Harrington returns to area as camp instructor

Former ElgHigh basketball star Sean Harringtwatches over basketball campers Wednesday during Jim HarringtBoys Basketball Camp Bartlett Community Center. | Michael

Former Elgin High basketball star Sean Harrington watches over basketball campers Wednesday during the Jim Harrington Boys Basketball Camp at the Bartlett Community Center. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 30, 2012 6:17AM

When Illinois dumped Bruce Weber and turned to former Ohio basketball coach John Groce, it meant immediate uncertainty for former Elgin High School basketball star Sean Harrington.

After three years as the Illini head of basketball operations, Harrington now knows he won’t be back at the school and the Maroons all-time scoring leader is weighing his options.

“I had really good talks with coach Groce, and at first it seemed there might be potential for staying on, but in the end it wasn’t the best for both sides,” Harrington said. “He had his guys to take care of and now I’m looking at other things.”

Harrington called it “more than likely” he’ll be out of college coaching in 2012-13 after nine years at four different universities.

“I have a couple things on the table, things I can’t talk about at this point, but more than likely I will not be coaching next year,” he said.

This week Harrington was back on the court, though, coaching at his father Jim’s basketball camp in Bartlett. The former Maroons coach was out due to an ankle injury and Sean stood in with Elgin girls coach Nick Bumbales.

“I love basketball, love being around it and coaching kids,” Sean Harrington said. “This was something that kind of gives you a chance to be hands-on with the kids and do it in your hometown, near where you grew up while giving the kids some good experience.”

Illinois’ three-point percentage leader four straight years, Harrington is alarmed by what he sees in the game today with a lack of fundamentals. There’s evidence of it in young players and older players as well, and he’s hoping it’s a trend that can be reversed.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that they’re lacking fundamentals,” he said. “Whatever the reason — if it’s the social media and SportsCenter aspect of it with all the dunks and highlight plays and things like that which are on TV, or some of influence of AAU basketball — there just is not the emphasis on dribbling, passing, defense and even shooting.

“It’s not what it was. There are great athletes, great players, but fundamentals take a back seat at times. There’s always room on a basketball court for players who know the fundamentals.”

It’s probably not surprising that Sean sounds a lot like his father, whose emphasis on fundamentals, and especially defense and rebounding, were right out of the Bobby Knight stylebook.

“My dad was one of my role models in the game and having gone through it all with him at Elgin I knew he was a great coach, but the more I was in the game from a coaching aspect I was able to see how much better a job he did do,” Harrington said. “I’ve been able to benefit from being around a lot of great basketball minds in 10 years. When I worked with those other great coaches I saw a lot of similar things to the way he did things.”

After graduating from Illinois in 2003, Sean Harrington worked under Bill Self at Kansas in 2004 as administrative assistant/video coordinator after playing for Self at Illinois. He was director of basketball operations under Rob Judson two years at Northern Illinois and had his only year involved in recruiting as an assistant coach in 2007 with Northern. In 2008 he worked for Rick Majerus at St. Louis, before moving on to Champaign.

His basketball operations work entailed organizing behind the scenes, as well as running camps and handling aspects of the team’s travel.

“It was an absolute blast that one year working for coach Majerus, “ Harrington said. “He’s an incredible coach and he’s had an immediate impact on getting that team back into the NCAA. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make it again next year.”

It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Harrington back in coaching again at some point because of his love of the game, but for now he seems to be at a fork in his career.

“My wife (Christine) is from the Oswego-Naperville area and some of the things I’m looking at would allow me to be wherever I want,” said Harrington, who has a 1-year-old son named James. “If it works out we’d both like to be back up in the suburbs.”

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