They came out again in force when the NBA Draft came and went without him being chosen. Monday none of that seemed to matter as the Dallas Mavericks decided Harrington had done enough in training camp to warrant a roster spot. From part-time starter as a junior at Auburn to a NBA player, the road has been a tough but rewarding one for Harrington.
"It's just an unbelievable experience from when I got here to this day," Harrington tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to keep being on this team and working with these guys. At first when I came in it was a veteran team and a lot of guys with guaranteed contracts so coming in it was kind of a longshot.
"I knew that coming in but it was an incredible situation for me to get better as a basketball player whether I stayed here or moved on. I felt things out the first couple of days and played pretty well, but the guys here just made me feel so comfortable and the style of play and the coaches. I felt comfortable and I played better and better everyday. I played better from day one. Everyday I got better and showed more of the things I could do and it went really, really well."
Known for his slashing and full court style of play when he transferred from North Carolina State to Auburn following the 1998-1999 season, Harrington immediately made an impact for the Auburn Tigers. After sitting out a season as a transfer, he averaged better than 15 points per game, showing that he was one of the more explosive players in the league. Harrington couldn't match those numbers as a junior and finished the season averaging just 10.1 points per game. Part of the reason was a change in playing style incorporated by Coach Cliff Ellis and his staff because of injuries and the loss of point guard Jamison Brewer to the NBA after his sophomore season.
Harrington says when he arrived in training camp he knew right away this was the game for him because of his experiences at Auburn and the style of basketball he grew up loving to play.
"That was one of the reasons I moved to Auburn was the style of play," Harrington says. "My first year playing at Auburn we were in that style of play, but with personnel and injuries and things that happened we had to do things differently. Coming into this situation and talking with Coach Ellis, everyone thought Dallas was a good fit.
"Obviously, it's self explanatory how good the players are, but they are so good and easy to play with that they force you to be better because if you don't play hard and don't play well you get embarrassed out here. These are professionals. It's their job. Nobody is trying to be nice out here. Everybody is trying to get better and earn their keep. I fit really well here. I was a good one-on-one player, really athletic, and could get up and down the floor. I competed and once I played well I think I earned respect. That made things a lot easier in the locker room and hanging out off the court. Everybody just respected me because I was able to play."
Auburn also added another player to the NBA ranks on Monday as center Pat Burke made the Orlando Magic as expected. After a strong performance in training camp, the veteran player from the professional leagues in Greece is expected to join Horace Grant at power forward for Coach Doc Rivers. In his four years at Auburn, Burke averaged 8.9 points and six rebounds and scored 1,064 points in his career.
Burke became one of the top big men in Greece and turned down previous offers to play in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks.
Harrington joins one of the up-and-coming franchises in all of professional sports in the Dallas Mavericks. With a final record of 57-25 last season that was the second-best record in the Western Conference. Fiery owner Mark Cuban and coach Don Nelson are primed to take the next step on the road to the NBA Championship and Harrington has a window seat on the bus.
"I don't think there could be a better group of guys as far as coaching to owners to players," Harrington says of the Mavericks. "They are so down to earth and humble. They call them ‘The Big Three' (Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley). Those three opened up to me and took me under their wings. They didn't have to because I'm a rookie that hasn't proved myself yet. I'm on my way and I have to pay my dues, but those guys are big NBA players. They've really helped me out and hung with me off the court. They've helped me with my game and I've competed with them. I've pushed them to make them better and they helped me with the little things."
Harrington has his sights set on his NBA career and getting in the rotation for one of the top teams in the league, but it didn't stop him from looking back on his time at Auburn. Growing up in Massachusetts and not knowing much about Auburn before arriving on the Plains, he says that he grew to love it and will miss the town and university dearly as he begins his life as a professional. He notes that he'll especially miss his relationships with Ellis, assistant coach Shannon Weaver, the rest of the staff and the basketball team as they begin a new season looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament once again.
"Since the day I stepped foot off Auburn soil I have missed it and I can't wait to get back," Harrington says of his feelings for Auburn. "This month has gone by so fast. I've kept up with the basketball team. I talk to Marquis (Daniels) and Marco (Killingsworth) the most. I call (Coach Shannon Weaver) every day wanting an update on how a guy is playing. I can't wait to get back for some games.
"I check up on the football team as well. I'm out here with all these Texas and Oklahoma fans and I'm talking about Auburn. We got beat the first couple of weekends I was here, but we had a huge win this weekend. That really helped me out. That was huge. I really miss it. I always hope to be a part of Auburn and come back and have a place somewhere around there. I want to come back and have Coach Ellis and Coach Weaver and the staff to be there. He's (Ellis) has been incredible in my life and my time there. There was so much I learned and I carried a lot of it on in my play here."