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Othella Harrington is back with Knicks as assistant coach

The oversized forward’s name triggers those who survived Knicks darkest decade

Spurs v Knicks Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Amid the Tom Thibodeau-induced furor of the Knicks’ training camp opener on Tuesday, the team released this season’s updated coaching staff:

The Tweet was mostly noteworthy for it’s inclusion of Rick Brunson, father to Jalen and former Knick, who joined the staff as a presumed sweetener to prying Jalen from the Mavericks as a free agent.

But there was another semi-familiar face that caught my eye. The face was older and rounder but familiar nonetheless. I’m in my late 30’s, so I feel anxiety harsher than ever. An all too familiar moistness softened my palms. My breath shortened a tick. My stomach twisted itself into a noose. There, on the second page of the coaching list was the name of the newest assistant coach in charge of player development: Othella Harrington.

To Knicks fans of a certain age, especially to us who started following the team under the darkness of Dolan’s ownership, Harrington evokes the most miserable period of fandom. Harrington was with the team from 2001-2004, and was brought in by then-GM Scott Layden. To put it frankly, Harrington sucked. In fact, he got dunked on, a lot. The 6’9” big man’s tenure overlapped with another rotund, undersized power forward in Clarence Weatherspoon. Neither had a name or game made for basketball. Both filled the void for the Knicks in the frontcourt and were outmatched nightly in power, size, and skill. Both averaged about the same measly single-digit points (career 7.4 PPG) and rebounds (career 4.4 RPG). Harrington was the de facto starter for the Knicks during the 2002-03 season, starting 64 games while averaging 25 mpg.

Harrington began a 12-year NBA career as the 30th pick of the 1996 Draft out of Georgetown, where he was teammates with Allen Iverson. The Hoyas official page dedicated to his tenure with the school opens with the tongue-in-cheek line “‘Ewing. Mourning. Harrington.’ Such were the expectations placed upon the nation’s #1 high school player in 1992 when he signed with Georgetown University.” It’s hard to believe a player of Harrington’s size and skill-set would ever be the number one high school prospect, as he would struggle to make a community college team today.

And while he followed in the footsteps of former Georgetown and Knicks great Patrick Ewing (he finished as the school’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds) his play on the court as a pro more closely resembled fellow Hoya Michael Sweetney. Although both men seemed to be all-around good dudes off the court, they both really sucked on it. As a fan, it's hard to believe Harrington would ever be back in the Knicks organization, much less in charge of something he utterly failed at as a player in player development.

So where the hell has Harrington been this whole time? After retiring in 2008, he returned to Georgetown as an assistant coach in 2011, and then served as an assistant on the bench of USA’s World Cup and FIBA AmeriCup. The hiring went under the radar. The announcement by the team yesterday was the first unofficial declaration Harrington was back with the team in a coaching capacity. But if you know the history, the hiring kind of makes sense. Harrington played for the Knicks when Thibodeau and current Knicks assistant coach Andy Greer were assistants and with Brunson as a teammate. So the connections are there, and you know these CAA Knicks love nepotism. This team, from the front office to the players, is built mostly upon relationships.

For Knicks fans who remember Harrington’s uninspiring play and the era in which he donned a Knicks jersey, his reappearance triggered us into a state of misery we thought we left far behind. The same Knicks graveyard where we left our memories of Travis Knight facials, Shandon Anderson bricks, and Allan Houston DNP’s.