Girls Basketball

Harrington set for new coaching challenge at Francis Howell High School

The dream of being a head basketball coach and running her own program is about to come true for Belleville native Morgan Harrington.

An assistant coach with the Lindenwood University at St. Charles women’s basketball program for the past four years, Harrington has been named as the new girls basketball coach at Francis Howell High School beginning in the 2016-17 season.

The daughter of Patti and Southwestern Illinois College men’s basketball coach Jay Harrington, Harrington will take over one of the top high school girls programs in the St. Louis area at Francis Howell. The Vikings were 27-4 and advanced to the Class 5A State Tournament last season.

Harrington, 26, is a 2008 graduate of Belleville East where she was a four-year starter for the Lancers. Although confident in her ability to lead such a high-profile program, Harrington was a little surprised she landed the job.

“Maybe a little.... I’m young, but I have been coaching at the college level for the past four years and I have been around the game my entire life,’’ Harrington said. “I am really looking forward to coaching and teaching at Francis Howell. It’s a great school district with a very supportive administration, staff and the parental support is just outstanding. I can’t wait to get started.’’

Harrington’s fiance’ Mike Muench is an assistant football coach at Francis Howell.

A lifetime of hoops

Morgan Harrington has had a basketball in her hands for as long as she can remember. Her dad, Jay Harrington has been the head coach at SWIC for for the past 36 years and has built one of the top men’s junior college programs in the nation. With her dad teaching her everything she knows about the game, Harrington has excelled as a player and now a coach at all levels.

Harrington was a four-year starter at point guard for Belleville East where she was a four-time all area selection. She then went on to play college basketball Missouri State University during her freshman year before transferring to Lindenwood University at St. Charles where she played her final three years under coach Tony Francis.

Harrington has been assistant coach at Lindenwood for the last four years. She once dreamed of being a head coach at the college level. But that dream has changed.

“I’m modifying the dream a little bit,’’ Harrington said with a smile. “I still get to be involved in coaching the game I love and be a teacher and mentor. I want to be a successful career woman, but I also want to have a family and be a good mom and build a strong family foundation.

“This was a tough decision because of my relationship with coach (Tony) Francis and the players at Lindenwood. Coach Francis was my coach, my mentor and now a good friend. But its a decision I feel is best for myself and my family.’’

Leading the Vikings

Francis Howell lost several players from its team which advanced to the Class 5A State Tournament where is lost to Kirkwood in the semifinals. But Harrington thinks there is talent on the way.

“They has several players graduate who played key roles last year. I know one of the girls who played signed with Eastern Illinois University and another one signed with Columbia (Mo.) College,’’ Harrington said. “The good news is that our freshman team went undefeated and the junior-varsity I think lost only one game. We have a lot of talent in the sophomore and junior classes. We just don’t have a lot of girls with much experience at the varsity level coming back.

“I’m a competitor and I want to win and be successful. But I also know basketball is a game and as a game it should be fun. I want the girls to have fun learning and playing the game of basketball. I want them to show some emotion when they do things well on the court.’’

Harrington also hopes to develop a relationship with some Illinois teams. The Vikings have scheduled a game with Highland next season. Highland placed third in the Class 3A State Tournament last season and return three starters from that team in 2016-17.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean