Othella Harrington Looking to Learn as AmeriCup Team Assistant
Othella Harrington hopes to learn under head coach Mike Fratello.
Othella Harrington has had the good fortune of playing for some of the best basketball minds at the college and pro levels: John Thompson at Georgetown University, Rudy Tomjanovich with the Houston Rockets and Jeff Van Gundy with the New York Knicks.
Now, he has the chance to learn from another.
Harrington was named an assistant coach by USA Basketball for the team that will participate in the men’s FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying games this month. Mike Fratello — former NBA coach, current TV analyst and well-known “Czar of the Telestrator” — is the head coach, while veteran NBA assistant Andy Greer rounds out the staff.
“I can remember as a young kid and watching Coach Fratello with the (Atlanta) Hawks with Dominique Wilkins and in Cleveland,” Harrington said. “He has a wealth of knowledge that he brings to the table.”
The U.S. will play Puerto Rico in a home-and-home series Feb. 20 in San Juan and Feb. 23 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. (for ), in the first of three competition windows. The Bahamas and Mexico are also in Group D, with games being played in November and next February. The top three teams from each of the four groups advance to the 2021 AmeriCup tournament as part of the qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
This is not Harrington’s first experience as a staffer with USA Basketball. He served as a team scout on Van Gundy’s staff for the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Team in the November-December 2018 and February 2019 windows. Harrington also played for three USA Basketball teams:
in the 1995 World University Games (gold medal), 1993 FIBA U21 World Championship (gold) and 1993 FIBA Americas U20 Championship (silver).
His other noteworthy coaching experience came when he returned to Georgetown to be the director of basketball operations under Thompson’s son, John Thompson III, from 2011-15.
So, Harrington is using this stint to soak up as much as he can from Fratello and Greer while imparting his knowledge to the AmeriCup players, who primarily will be from the G League in order to not interfere with the NBA season.
“As a player, you get the reports and you go out there and do what you know, go out there and do what you love to do,” Harrington said. “I mean, obviously, much more intensive being a coach because you're always trying to figure out who's going to fit in.
... It's been eye-opening. I mean, just to work with some great individuals and really, really great coaches and great staff. The experience is priceless.”
Harrington, 46, would like to get into coaching more extensively, but understands it is a process.
“It's no part of a natural progression right now. I'm not on anyone's staff right now,” Harrington said of being an assistant on this team. “To be asked, to be involved, I mean, it keeps me involved in the game, No. 1. But No. 2, I'm young in this still and so the more chance I can have, just in terms of the overall process, from putting the team together to being on the court and helping develop the players and helping to develop a great game plan.”
Harrington has seen Van Gundy coach from different angles, as a player and on his staff, and has the same takeaway. He has seen a similar trait in his brief time with Fratello.
“It was on the same level,” Harrington said of the various perspectives of Van Gundy. “Just every detail, every point. There's not anything too small. And that's kind of like the approach that I want to take along during my career.”
He wasn’t anticipating this opportunity, so when he got called and asked if he was interested, Harrington jumped at the opportunity.
“It is a nice thing to be able to put on your resume, obviously,” Harrington said. “But I just view it as a huge honor to represent your country and represent USA Basketball on an international stage. I mean, we have some of the best basketball players in the world. To be a part of that and be a part of representing that country and helping us get back to the Olympics in 2024, I don't take it for granted.”