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May 6, 2010

2009-10 Season - Former All-American to coach Team USA

Rick Harrigan was the CCIW MVP as a senior and earned NCAA Division III All-American honors when he averaged 22.2 points per game in 2005-06.

It is undeniable that the liberal arts education provided by Augustana is among the best at developing the whole person. The education nurtures well rounded students who are focused on challenging themselves in many different ways. Rick Harrigan, a 2006 graduate and one of the school’s all-time greats in men’s basketball, certainly fits into that category.

This summer, the former sharp-shooter who prepped at Chicago’s Brother Rice High School and was the Most Outstanding Player in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin in 2005-06, will embark on an interesting journey that few could have envisioned for him, including Harrigan himself. He will serve as an assistant coach for the United States team in the 2010 DIBF (Deaf International World Basketball Championships) in Lublin, Poland from June 25 through July 3.

How Harrigan got from draining three point field goals and leading Augustana to a CCIW title in the 2005-06 season to helping coach hearing impaired athletes is an interesting story. After Harrigan completed his playing career he began actively searching for a graduate assistant job in the sport that he played nearly his entire life. Harrigan discovered Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. where he was able to continue his education and was hired as an assistant men’s basketball coach.

The interesting aspect of studying and coaching at Gallaudet is that it is a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. Although Harrigan was a communication studies major while attending Augustana, he was it was not at all familiar with sign language. In fact, when Harrigan arrived at Gallaudet in 2008 he didn’t know any sign language.

“I didn’t start learning sign language until I arrived on campus for my first day in August of 2008”, said Harrigan. “I was overwhelmed at first, and frustrated by the communication difficulties. However, I worked hard in my sign language classes, and with the help of all the players on our team I was able to improve relatively quickly. Being engulfed in the deaf culture (he lives on campus) I was also able to learn sign at a fast pace. While I am still years from being a fluent signer, my skills have developed and I can communicate effectively as a coach and in most social situations.”

Grey Giovanine, who was Harrigan’s head coach at Augustana, can attribute hard work and perseverance to the reasons why Harrigan was able to pick up the sign language so quickly.

“Rick overcame difficult personal and physical setbacks during his career at Augustana to become one of the great players in Augustana College's storied history,” said Giovanine. “He culminated his remarkable career by leading us to the CCIW regular season championship and a "Sweet 16" run in the NCAA tourney. Along the way Rick garnered well deserved CCIW "player of the year" honors, and All-American recognition.”

Harrigan’s statistics while at Augustana speak for themselves. He finished his career with 1,063 points and that currently ranks him 17th on the school’s all-time list. During his senior season he averaged 22.2 points per game and scored 621 points, which is the third highest single season point total in school history. He was good on .430 (65-151) shots from three point range and hit .802 (138-172) from the free throw line. He was a career .763 (200-262) shooter from the free throw line and he ranks fourth on the school’s career list in both three point field goals made (131) and three point field goal attempts (328). He led the CCIW in scoring as a senior, was first team all-conference and won the Fred Young Award as the “Most Outstanding Player” in the league. He was also named to the NCAA Division III All-American team by

Giovanine is not surprised by what his former charge is doing these days, and how well he is doing it. “I am not surprised that Rick has gone on to coach and serve student athletes with special challenges, and I trust he will continue to inspire all of those he comes into contact with throughout his career.”

Harrigan reflects on experience at Gallaudet as being one he will be able to use each day and in furthering his coaching career. “This being my first coaching experience I could not have asked for more,” he says. “Not only was I able to continue my education, but I was also able to learn a new culture and meet some very fascinating people. Although we struggled somewhat on the court, the players never ceased to be coachable and try to improve themselves and their team. As a team we've boasted above a 3.0 G.P.A. for the two years I have been here. These kids love the game of basketball and are eager to learn. I will miss the players and the relationships I have made with everyone around the program as I leave this summer.”

The United States team will practice for three weeks on the campus of Gallaudet before heading to Poland. Harrigan says the mission of the team is simple. “Just like most sports, the USA is expected to be competing for the gold medal and that is what we will preach to our players.”

Story written by Robbin Cooley, student assistant in the Augustana sports information office.