Northwest Florida mourns the passing of NWF State Coach Patrick Harrington
Niceville, FL — In the upcoming days, weeks, months and years, Patrick Harrington’s legacy at Northwest Florida State will be discussed with reverence.
Yet no description, no anecdote, no list of stats and accomplishments of the lauded Raider women’s basketball coach, caring father of three and beloved husband will do him justice. Harrington, whose boisterous Boston personality was dwarfed only by his heart, was one of a kind.
The 51-year-old, who died early Thursday, one week after suffering critical injuries in a car accident, was an innovator on the court. He was a defensive-minded coach. Yet he was also a proponent of the run-and-gun game and took no greater joy than when an outlet pass was executed to perfection.
He also demanded excellence in the most mundane things — passing, movement without the ball, half- and full-court traps. And he celebrated every small victory — a backdoor screen, a powerful box-out, good spacing. In doing so, he led NWF State to new heights.
n just four seasons, Harrington hit the century win mark with a 100-25 record. And these weren’t hollow wins padded by an early season non-conference slate. Quite the opposite.
In the 2012-13 campaign, Harrington ended two 18-year program droughts by leading the Raiders to a co-Panhandle Conference title and an NJCAA Division I appearance, the first of what would be back-to-back quarterfinal appearances.
“What he accomplished in four years hadn’t been accomplished here in 20 years,” NWF State Athletic Director Ramsey Ross said. “What he did was put Northwest Florida State women’s basketball back on the map. He really made it into a national power.”
This season, now less than a month away, Harrington was thrilled to add a prized recruiting class to a strong nucleus highlighted by Panhandle Player of the Year Simone Westbrook.
The unflinching confidence was apparent three weeks ago at the fifth annual Panhandle Practice Days, a showcase where Division I coaches assembled and watched the Raiders practice. But before the team went out to display their talents, Harrington quelled their nerves with a message on the dry erase board in the team locker room: “We don’t play for Pro Day at NWF State. We play for banners, championships, cutting down the nets and national championships!”
But it wasn’t the statewide and national acclaim by which Harrington measured his job performance.
No, it was the promise he’d made to former athletic director Mickey Englett in 2010 that stuck with him: “My greatest responsibility is we have to put players in the best position to succeed,” Harrington said just three weeks ago.
A look at the numbers revealed him to be a man of his word. During his four years, 23 of 23 players went on to play at bigger programs. Twenty of those were to Division I universities.
A part of that was the team’s success. But the greater exposure came from Harrington’s commitment to starting Panhandle Practice Days five years ago, when he saw a Cam Newton Pro Day and developed a similar outlet for his Raiders.
Loyal and selfless, passionate and committed, Harrington — the man who baked cupcakes for his players in 2011 as they fought for a playoff spot — was first and foremost a champion for the program.
“He was also a master promoter,” Ross said. “He could promote anything. That was a reflection of his personality — boisterous and fun-loving, a personality you just had to be around.”
A personality that will be sorely missed by his players.
“Gonna make this season a great one for you,” guard Lindsey Jennings wrote on Twitter. “We are still #RaiderStrong. RIP Coach Harrington.”
Added NWF State men’s head coach Steve Demeo, who met Harrington in 1995: “When you come to a new program there’s always one guy you lean on for advice and support. “He was that guy I leaned on. We’d be X’ing and O’ing nonstop in our office, discussing strategies and whatnot.”
“He just left a lasting impression on everyone he met.”