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Harrick Reaches End of the Road

Embattled coach resigns during academic scandal, says he's retiring.

March 28, 2003|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

The scandal is far from over for Georgia, but Jim Harrick ended his part in it Thursday by resigning as coach, saying afterward he will not return to the bench either in college or the NBA.

"I decided it's time that I retired, and that's what I did," Harrick said. "I had that right, after 43 years in coaching.

"No one made me. It was my decision alone. They had no violations on me. Even [Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley] said that in the press conference. I felt good about that."

Harrick, 64, had three seasons left on a contract that would have paid him $2.1 million, though Georgia could have fired him without further compensation if it determined he deliberately violated NCAA rules.

Under the terms of his negotiated resignation, he will receive $254,166 in remaining base salary and radio, TV and Nike payments.

"I just retired. I gave all that up. I knew what was going on. I retired," he said.

Embroiled in allegations of academic fraud and improper benefits in the Georgia program that already cost his son, assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., his job, Harrick resigned with the investigation still underway, still claiming he will be exonerated.

"I will be in the end," he said. "They may find something, I don't know, but there is nothing major there."

Harrick, suspended with pay since March 10, ends his career with a record of 470-235. But that record is marred by allegations of unethical conduct not only at Georgia but at Rhode Island and UCLA, where he was fired in 1996 for lying on an expense report to cover up a minor NCAA violation, later asking an assistant to lie about it as well.

Nevertheless, Harrick said he and his wife, Sally, will return to the Los Angeles area, where he began his career as an assistant at Inglewood Morningside High in 1964 and where he reached the pinnacle of his career in 1995, guiding UCLA to the NCAA championship.

"We'll come home. That's what we call home," he said.

He dismissed speculation he might be reunited with Lamar Odom, who played for him at Rhode Island, as coach of the Clippers.

"No, no, no," Harrick said. "You know, I've had a great, great run. I've been in college coaching 30 years, 24 as a head coach. I've had a great run, and I don't know if you understand, but we have grandkids in Los Angeles we missed terribly. We sat and talked about it a long time, and we want to be there with them."

Though Harrick's resignation leaves Dooley free to search for a new coach next week at the Final Four, the turmoil for Georgia is not over.

The university almost certainly faces NCAA penalties after it finishes investigating earlier findings of academic fraud and allegations of improper payments to a former player, Tony Cole.

School officials earlier said they confirmed that three players -- starters Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright and Cole, Harrick's chief accuser -- were given credit for a physical education class taught by the younger Harrick despite never attending, and at least one player received an A.

"This entire situation has been, and is, regrettable for the athletic program and the university," Dooley said in a statement. "Coach Harrick is an accomplished coach.... However, I believe his resignation and retirement at this time to be in the best interests of the athletic association and the university, and Coach Harrick obviously believes it is in his best interests, as well."

Dooley said that the settlement does not mean a "smoking gun" was uncovered in the ongoing investigation.

"It simply says that we paid him what we were obligated to up to the time he resigned."

Harrick, joined at his home by his players and staff Thursday, said his relationship with his son remains good despite his son's role in the scandal.

"We're fine, we're doing good. It's hard on him. He's a young guy [38]."

Watching the NCAA tournament, however, has been difficult after the university made the dramatic move of withdrawing from postseason competition as the scandal widened.

"We were supposed to be playing. Not being able to play in the tournament, that was just crushing," Harrick said.

Georgia, ranked No. 21 at the time, was considered a contender for the Sweet 16.

"It could have been more than that, with a lucky break here and there, maybe the Final Four," he said. "It was an awfully good team."

Harrick's resignation also ends an uncomfortable period in his relationship with Georgia President Michael F. Adams, a friend from the days when both worked at Pepperdine.

"Jim Harrick Sr. is a man of considerable coaching talent in whom Coach Dooley and I had placed a great deal of confidence," Adams said in a statement. "We were greatly disappointed to lose that confidence due to Coach Harrick's failure to appropriately manage the basketball program."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Harrick's Record

Jim Harrick resigned as Georgia men's basketball coach Thursday after four years. A look at his coaching career:

*--* Seasons W L Pct PEPPERDINE 1980-1988 167 97 633 UCLA 1989-1996 191 63 752 RHODE ISLAND 1998-1999 45 22 672 GEORGIA 2000-2003 67 53 558

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