To say Clester Harrington had a great high school basketball coaching career would be ignoring the true icon status he holds around town and the impact he made on the Altus High School basketball program.
A 2002 inductee into the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and a 2009 inductee to the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, his career spanned 40 total years — 30 of which he spent as the head coach of the Altus Bulldog basketball team compiling an overall record of 440-299. He has 560 wins and 407 losses throughout his entire coaching career — a span of time that saw him coach at Tulsa Marquette, Wetumka, Edmond, Oklahoma City Harding and Altus.
Anybody who coaches high school athletics knows that some years will be better than others, but Harrington knew how to make being successful a consistent part of his program.
Harrington’s record speaks for itself.
In his career, he had 11 appearances to the state basketball tournament and was the runner-up in the 1975 tournament.
He claimed nine regional tournament championships, 10 area tournament championships and 16 invitational tournament championships. No matter the sport, his résumé is as impressive as any.
Harrington is one of the most decorated and iconic coaches in Oklahoma high school basketball history and is credited with the creation and development of the Shortgrass Invitational Tournament and the spot-up defense.
Harrington created the Shortgrass Invitational in 1972. It has grown from being just another tournament to being one of the longest, if not the longest running basketball tournaments in the State of Oklahoma.
It also has become a tournament that many teams use to prepare for the state championship tournament, as it has seen numerous teams come through town before going on to win the state championship at the end of the season.
Nowadays, the tournament goes by the name of the Clester Harrington Shortgrass Invitational, honoring the man who started it some 44 years ago.
He also developed what he called the spot-up defense and used a zone with man-to-man principles to punish and confuse any team that was unfortunate enough to play against him.
Harrington has been said to have been way before his time and it also has been said that had he played in a different era of high school basketball, he would have won numerous state championships.
Now, almost 20 years after he coached his final game and retired as one of most notable coaches in Oklahoma high school basketball history, the Altus High School basketball court is being renamed in honor of him.
Just this past week, the court was renovated extensively — sanded down to the wood and refinished, repainted and resealed — complete with his signature along the north and south sidelines.
It looks sharp and when the Bulldogs run out on it this winter they can look down and see his signature along the sidelines and be proud to know that they share a history with one of the best high school coaches to ever mentor the game.
Now that it is done, it finally looks like a floor worthy of a Clester Harrington coached team.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.