Harrington ready to tackle challenge at media table
For the better part of his basketball career, Sean Harrington was reported on, reviewed and analyzed by the media.
Now Harrington will become one of us.
Harrington, the former Elgin High School and University of Illinois standout is, for the first time in his career, leaving the court and the bench for another seat at courtside, the one occupied by the Big Ten Network. He will call his first game as a BTN color analyst on Nov. 12 when Central Michigan plays at Iowa.
"It's something I've always been interested in but I had too many conflicts in college to be a broadcast major," said Harrington earlier this week from his home in Champaign.
After scoring 750 points and playing in 11 NCAA Tournament games for the Illini between 2000-03, Harrington immediately embarked on a college coaching career that lasted through last season when he completed a four-year run as Director of Basketball Operations Illinois under Bruce Weber, who was fired at the end of the season.
Harrington's career includes stints on the coaching staff of Bill Self at Kansas, Rub Judson at Northern Illinois, Rick Majerus at Saint Louis University, and Weber.
"Coach Self was going to Kansas and had a spot for me, but in my heart I've always thought about broadcasting," said Harrington, a 1999 graduate of Elgin and 2008 inductee to the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame. "The last couple of years I've pursued it some and I'm diving in this year. It's a good opportunity. I've got 11-12 games lined up with the possibility of a few more and four studio appearances for sure."
Harrington was a student of the game as a player and coach, something he now has to be from a little different perspective as a broadcaster.
"Without having any experience it's been a lot of preparation," he said. "I went into the studio to get used to the lights and the cameras and did auditions with the Big Ten Network on set. I also called a mock game for them and did a mock game with Brian Barnhart, the U of I broadcaster. That's the side I don't have the experience in."
What Harrington does have experience in are the things color analysts need the most — knowledge of the game.
"Breaking players down and breaking down the game comes naturally for me," he said. "I've been doing that for 25 years. Getting it across to the TV audience is the challenge."
A challenge Harrington is having a blast with so far. He's attended several Big Ten practices already as he gets to know the players and coaches from a different perspective.
"It's a really fun challenge," said Harrington, who maintains residence in Champaign with his wife, Christine, and son, James. "I've really enjoyed getting prepared for it. As an athlete you look forward to challenges. I've really enjoyed working with the Big Ten. It's been a lot of fun going to practices and seeing the different coaching styles. You really see how they handle their teams when you get into a practice."
Coming from a family where his dad, Jim, was a coach and then spending nine years as a college coach, making the career change came down to a family decision as much as anything for Harrington.
"It was a great time to change," he said. "Both professions are very hard to move up in but with broadcasting you have a little more control of your career. There are so many factors in coaching. I enjoyed it but the advancement is out of your hands. This will also allow me more time with my wife and son. I've been married six years now and our son is one and-a-half and I'm looking forward to more time with them. In coaching there's no offseason. Now there will be some down time."
One thing Harrington promises his TV audience is the same thing they got from him at Elgin High and at Illinois.
"I want the viewers to see the same hard work and preparation I had as a player," Harrington said.
Big Ten Network viewers appear to be in for a treat this winter.
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