Harrington beat Colorado to punch with resignation


Joe Harrington's sixth season as Colorado's basketball coach was fraught with controversy, beset by an endless run of misfortune.

Players made headlines for a number of reasons. There were shoplifting charges and academic suspensions and one complaint of sexual harassment.

When they managed to keep the news on the court, it wasn't good, either. The Buffaloes lost regularly, if not routinely.

As proprietor of the program, Harrington came in for the lion's share of the criticism. The bandwagon that sprang up after last season's NIT appearance and the signing of blue-chip recruit Chauncey Billups had long since vanished when he made this recent proclamation: "I'm full of holes. There's no room left to blast me."

So last Monday, facing the inevitable, Harrington decided to move off the firing line. He tendered his resignation to Colorado athletic director Bill Marolt, coached the Buffs (5-9) to a sixth straight loss Tuesday night against Southern Utah and then made public his decision to quit.

Only those on the outside were surprised. Maryland coach Gary Williams, one of Harrington's best friends, saw it coming.

"Joe started thinking about it last Friday," Williams said yesterday. "I think he felt the situation wasn't going to get better, and he'd probably be fired when the season was over."

Williams and Harrington were teammates at Maryland from 1964 through 1967. They were roommates two of those years, and after that, they were graduate assistants together at Maryland.

When Williams left to take a high school post in Camden, N.J., Harrington stayed on and served as Lefty Driesell's top assistant for nine years.

Harrington won 251 games and lost 220 at Hofstra, George Mason, Long Beach State and Colorado (72-85) before walking away from the job in Boulder in midseason.

He'll be reassigned in the athletic department and be paid through June. But he will not get money from the second year of a two-year contract extension because it was not guaranteed.

In the end, Harrington was a victim of expectations he created with two NIT appearances in five years and of his own coaching style. The portrait of him as he departed was one of a coach who had lost control of the program, one who had little taste for discipline.

Ricardo Patton, Harrington's assistant who will take over on an interim basis, hinted as much when he said: "Some of our guys just do not respond to kindness, and some of Joe's kindness was interpreted as weakness. Joe is not a weak person."

Martice Moore, a junior who transferred from Georgia Tech, hinted at deeper problems: "There was a lot of selfish play going on. I don't think it was so much players not respecting the coach; it was players not respecting players."

Still, Harrington could return to coaching. Williams said. "He's proven he can go in and do a good job in a building situation."

Over by halftime

It was a week of explosive first halves in college basketball. On Tuesday, Kentucky rolled up an 86-42 lead against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., en route to a 129-97 victory. The Wildcats' binge was the fifth-best half in Southeastern Conference history and tied for 13th highest in Division I history.

That it came against LSU should be no surprise. The 'Cats have beaten Dale Brown's team by a total of 79 points in their past three meetings.

One night later, Maryland hammered Delaware State for 70 points in the first half, coasting to a 118-55 win. It was the highest first-half total in Maryland history, and tied for the school's fifth-best half overall.

Oklahoma owns the record for the highest-scoring half in Division I with 97 points against U.S. International in 1989.

And don't come back

North Carolina not only beat Clemson by 33 points in their grudge match Sunday, but Tar Heels coach Dean Smith got in the last word.

Clemson coach Rick Barnes, who created a furor during the ACC tournament last season by going after Smith verbally, complained when he wasn't introduced at the Dean Dome before the game.

Said Smith: "We don't introduce coaches. When I first became coach, we stopped that because I felt the focus should be on the players."

Just send a check

St. Joseph's calculates it lost $100,000 when Arizona failed to show up for Saturday's game in blizzard-struck Philadelphia. The Hawks probably will forward a bill. . . . Duke's Mike Krzyzewski: "We're not a program of excuses. This is where we're at. You kind of have to earn winning. In each game we've played, we've had an opportunity to win."

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