The writing has been on the wall about Al Harrington as early as Dec. 6, when he hinted about his future plans. Talking to Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld, Harrington had already decided he wanted to do as he was sitting out would be 47 games because of a troublesome right knee that would eventually require another surgery.
"I’m an assistant coach, you didn’t know that? I just wear the uniform. I’ve been coaching my ass off," said Harrington, now an unrestricted free agent which creates an open roster spot for Washington. "I already talked to Ernie about getting another check possibly, and we’re in negotiations with that right now. I’m coach Harrington and the player like back in the day. …I'm trying to bring that back."
There were laughs all around, but little did anyone realize that Harrington was serious. He'll try his hand at coaching when the Wizards open mini-camp Monday at Verizon Center to prepare for Las Vegas summer league which runs July 11-21.
He told CSNWashington.com on May 16 that he had to have surgery to repair his left shoulder in the off-season and if he continues to play he's likely facing microfracture surgery to his knee. He might even have to get knee replacement. Harrington, who completed his 16th season and first in Washington, is just 34.
He might've found his calling while on the bench during the Wizards' 44-win season as they advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
"Those guys reach out to me and ask for advice. Nene is like, 'Guys are guarding me this way. How can I get into the middle?' Usually I have an answer for him," said at the time. "Something I can help him out with. I want to stay in basketball when I’m done playing. This may be a cool segue to see if I got it. I always said I never wanted to coach but these last couple weeks in my little role to help the guys out I feel I might be possibly a good coach. We’ll see."
About a month later, Harrington downplayed those comments by saying he was just "joking." Clearly, he wasn't. But in his short tenure here he has gained a pulse of the locker room that suggests he knows what it takes. There's an opening on coach Randy Wittman's bench now that Ryan Saunders left after the season to be an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves to rejoin his father, Flip. He compiled the game plans and scouting reports.
"If you’re not asking to come out of the game," he said an AAU coach once told him, "you’re not playing hard enough."