Sean Harrington is a former guard at the University of Illinois. Recruited by Lon Kruger, he played for both Kruger and Bill Self. Upon graduation, he became Administrative Assistant/Video Coordinator at Kansas for a year, followed by three years at Northern Illinois and one at St. Louis University. He is now Director of Operations at Illinois, the role he played at SIU and two of his three years at NIU. He was an assistant coach the third year at NIU.
He is pleased to be working for his alma mater.
"It's good. Obviously playing here for four years, you have a little comfort with the area. Each time you move to a new staff, you feel out how things are run and how they like things done. So now that I'm in my second year here, I have a better feel for everyone on the staff. What they like and don't like, and how you can help them out. It's been pretty good."
In his brief time in the coaching profession, he's had the pleasure of working for three of basketball's icons.
"I've been very lucky, very fortunate. This is my fourth school now after being out of school here only for seven years. It's moving around quite a bit, but I've learned quite a bit as well.
"I think all four coaches have completely different styles. Coach Self, Coach (Rick) Majerus and Coach (Bruce) Weber are three of the most successful coaches in the business. They all do things differently. I picked up different thing from each one.
"I think it was good to see three different coaches all successful with three different styles. There's not necessarily one winning formula you have to follow, but you've got to believe in what you do, and you've got to execute what you do and do it well."
Of course, there are some things all great coaches do.
"One thing they all have in common is they all work extremely hard. The time they put in is something you can't slack off on. Successful coaches put in the time and do the work. That's the main thing they all have in common."
Harrington tries to learn from all of them.
"You pick up a little bit from every coach. I had a unique relationship with Coach Self because I played for him and then worked for him. That's two different things. He really did a good job making me feel comfortable around him.
"I felt I had a great relationship with him. When you play for a coach, that's kind of like having a second father, someone you look up to. He did a great job of helping me out after school and taking me under his wings. And he did a good job showing me the things he did.
"One thing I saw with him, because I saw it from two different sides, was his player/coach relationship. I got to experience him as a player, and then I got to see what he did on the staff side of it. It was a unique experience to be able to see both sides. It is completely different on the coach side than on the player side. There's a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that you don't really see when you're a player."
Self is an outstanding coach and recruiter, but he is also a master of working with media. Harrington learned a lot from him on how to get the media on your side.
"I think that goes along with his personality. He does a really good job of fitting in in any situation. He can blend in with just about any situation. He can go into a situation some people might find uncomfortable, and he has a way with people that they think they know him, that he understands them.
"He does a good job of getting people to like him. That's just something people have I think, a characteristic he has that he's very personable. People like that."
Self provides access to the media, and they in return help publicize his program.
"Everything can be a negative, and everything can be a positive. You've got to spin it to help benefit you. The media is a great thing, especially with technology today. Everybody can see you, everybody can hear you. Sometimes that's a bad thing, but it's an incredible thing.
"You can get the whole country, get the whole state aware of what you're trying to do. They feel like they really know your program through media outlets. One person can't go and capture everybody's attention, but if people know about your program, it can be a very positive thing.
"Everybody's in it as a business. The media's in it for a business, we're in it for a business. Media wants to get their story too. Obviously, they're not gonna go out and bash somebody everyday or the coach and staff aren't going to be as receptive to letting them come in for new stories.
"I think they want to help us out as well, and obviously it's a two-way street. If one is bashing the other or vice versa, there isn't going to be a good relationship."
Majerus is a media favorite and popular speaker.
"He can entertain a crowd. When he's at a speaking engagement, he can have the place cracking up. I think there are definitely people drawn to him as well. He finds a way to relate to people, and he really does care about people."
It was his coaching expertise that influenced Harrington the most.
"Coach Majerus is just an unbelieveable X's and O's coach. Every single day, I felt I was at a coaching clinic. His knowledge of the game, he's been around the game so long. He's been at the college level, he's been at the pro level. Every single day, you go into the office and say, 'Wow, did he really show us that?'
"It really surprised you how much he knew. His knowledge of the game is just incredible. He knows more than we'll ever dream to know it seems like. That was really impressive. And his preparation going into games was really impressive too. Again, another great experience for me."
Harrington said Majerus had other special qualities as well.
"I think getting the most out of his players. I don't remember him at Ball State or Marquette, I wasn't around then. But I did follow his Utah teams. He had some real good players on those teams, but I think most of the time he was winning with less talent.
"You look at the team that lost to Kentucky in the (NCAA) Championship. He had Andre Miller and Michael Doleac, and those guys were proven players. But over the course of his 15 years at Utah, he wasn't getting McDonald's All-Americans all the time. But he was always right there in the top 10 or 15.
"He just really gets his guys to play hard. He does a great job of teaching fundamentals. Every single player knows where they're supposed to be and at which times. I think his attention to detail and his knowledge of basketball and getting guys to play hard in combination is really, really good."
Those who give to Majerus get back in spades.
"He's got a good heart. With Coach Majerus, if you put in the time with him, if you're loyal to him, he's gonna be extremely loyal to you.
"You can talk to his former players. If they didn't work hard, they don't have a great relationship with him. But anybody who put in the time and effort, Coach Majerus would run through a wall for them and looks out for them after their careers are over.
"He's extremely loyal, and the same thing for the media. If they're good to him and giving the time, he's great to them back."
Harrington continues discussing his coaching experiences in part 2.