December 27, 2005

Harrington Shares Her Knowledge

By: Steve Mathies, Herald and News, Klamath Falls, OR
December 25, 2005

She has always known that medical school would be part of her future.

It still is, but there are other degree programs to be completed first for Tara Harrington, Oregon's first high school All-American girls basketball player.

The affable Harrington has taken the fall term off to help with things at home. In January, she heads back to Chapel Hill, N.C., where she is set to receive a master's degree in business administration in June. A master's degree in health services looms in June of 2007.

“I still want to go to medical school,” she said while relishing the recent snow, something she had not seen since the winter of 1999-2000 when Harrington was an assistant women's basketball coach at Montana State University.

She might be “home,” but Harrington certainly is not taking life easy. She recently spent two days in Los Angeles securing a summer internship. She had hoped to attend the Tennessee at Stanford women's basketball game in November. She has been spending time helping Tom Loney and the Oregon Tech women's basketball team.

“I like the coaching part of basketball,” Harrington said. Her appearances at Danny Miles Court have helped eliminate the bitter taste she had after her experience at Montana State, where head coaches were changed between her two seasons there. It was a less than amicable split.

She smiles easily now. Her time with the Hustlin' Owls has helped. So has time with her parents, Len and Sue. Brother Ty, and his wife, were home for Thanksgiving, having traveled to Klamath Falls from Alabama.

Her father said before a December OIT game that he thinks his daughter relishes coaching. “This has been fun, just a lot of fun,” Harrington said after the Hustlin' Owls beat Evergreen State and hand the Geoducks their first conference loss of the season.

Tara Harrington still carries herself with the grace that helped her, and her Mazama teammates, begin to put Southern Oregon Conference on the girls state basketball map. The Vikings placed twice when Harrington played, including a third-place finish after a semifinal loss to power Oregon City, something no other SOC girls basketball team ever had done. The Vikings also played in tournaments in New York City and in Ohio.

Harrington then left for Stanford, where she was able to use basketball to get an education.

Her collective basketball exploits helped whet her appetite for travel. She drove to a pair of recent road games, both OIT wins. During November and December, she has taken notes, made little suggestions and made new friends. “It's been great and the girls really respond to her,” Loney said recently. “The girls look up to her. They respect her. Everybody will miss her.”

“I really like her helping out,” sophomore Ashley DuBrey, who played high school basketball at Triad, said. “It's always nice to have another coach.”

Senior Samantha Gilbert, who played high school basketball at Klamath Union, said: “She knows everything and is really helping us reach our potential. She has been a big help.”

Loney said Harrington has been a nice additional to the Owls this fall. “She brings a lot to the table,” the fourth-year OIT women's coach said. “She helped add a new wrinkle to our offense, which was something she ran at Stanford. “It's been nice having a female on the staff, giving us ideas about the game I don't know. She has helped both the players and the coaches.” More than being another coach, however, is the role Harrington plays. “She's such a strong person. She's a good role model,” DuBrey said. Loney said: “Everybody will miss her.”

Harrington said leaving the Oregon Tech women's basketball program will be, on the one hand, sad, but, at the same time, she looks forward to her future.

December 20, 2005

E-Mail #2 from Kate

We reached .500 with our first road win of the season. We played in Ligo, a town on the northwest coast of Spain whose ocean inlets and evergreen trees always manage to remind me of Seattle and make me homesick even in the most present of mental states.

Our team actually didn't stay in Ligo this year, but found a hotel in Pontevedra, about 40 kilometers away, instead. The Vigo hotels were all filled to capacity with the competitors and fans for an around-the-world regatta that began on Saturday afternoon. Our game began at about the same time. Jamila lamented this unfortunately poor timing of events, unable to catch more than a seconds-long peek through a taxi window at the amazing ships lined up and ready to race. She is a sailing aficionado. We noticed the intricate masts of some pirate-like models as we drove into the city, and Jamila's initial gasp of awe ended up a swallow of disappointment as our gym-bound taxi dove into a tunnel and carried us away from the port.

We don't take buses very often, unless the trip between airport and hotel or gym is more than an hour's drive. Instead, we pile into southern European-sized taxis four, often sweaty, northern European-sized chicas. It is not the most comfortable ride, especially when the high-pitched, old sweat stink of never-dry basketball shoes drifts forward from the bags in the trunk.

Six of us opted to take our dinner outside the hotel, and spent the evening wandering the very cold streets of Pontevedra searching for a tapas bar with enough room for half a basketball team. When we finally found the proper combination of table size, stool size, and heat, we ended up ordering three bottles of wine and a serving of everything on the menu. We munched on Spanish tortilla, calamari, croquetas, sausage, shrimp, and three types of octopi, with just about all of it soaked in oil.

We deserved a feast. Our week had been a bit dramatic, with the coaches and "directivos" having alternately taken away all of our human rights and then returned most of them with a new written set of team rules. As a thirty-year-old it seems a bit strange to be given an in-week curfew and bedtime by men who I am not even related to, and I'm glad they worked most of that out without me having to speak or habla-up.

By the end of the week our team rules allowed, once again, for us to be free to do as we pleased with our post-game weekend. We just have to make sure to ask for permission. Okay, I guess I can deal with that indiginity, as long as it's not accompanied by curfews and check-ins.

In the magazine that sits in the seat pocket under the tray table on every Iberia flight, there are a few pages that list all of the current cultural exhibits in every city in Spain. I like the magazine, because it has all of the articles in Spanish and English, so I can expand my vocabulary during the flights. A few weeks ago, Jamila noticed a Frida Kahlo exhibit running in Santiago de Compostela. She had an easy time talking Katja and me into another prospective journey. When she asked for permission to change our homebound flights, our coach remarked, "Ester wants to stay and see her boyfriend. You all want to stay and be culturally enriched..." He consented, of course.

So we spent our pre-game nap time in an internet cafe re-working our flight itineraries and re-checking the exhibit time. On Sunday morning, as the rest of the team was cabbing back to the airport, we were walking to the Pondevedra bus station down a dark and icy street, with our big, red, smelly gym bags slung over our shoulders.

You forget about cold when you cease to experience it in any direct way. It hits fifty here sometimes at night and with our heat still not working the sixty degree temps inside can be a bit uncomfortable. But I have my sweatshirts and my hats, and winter sort of disappears into the palm trees here in Ibiza.

Winter does not, however, disappear into the palm trees in Santiago de Compostela. We arrived in a sub-zero bus station at 9 in the morning. The sun was barely above the horizon. The sky was blue, mostly, with a few hazy clouds racing by overhead. The wind was biting. We observed that our bulky team jackets were merely big but not warm. I put a fuzzy ski-cap on my head and we set out to find the first of many coffees (cola-caos for me).

We took the right city bus into town, but missed our stop and ended up hiking a kilometer or two back into the city center. Jam limped along on her sore ankle and my back began to call attention to itself. Active basketball players don't necessarily make the best back-packer style tourists.

As we made our way into the city center, we noticed that nature was somehow defying its own laws. With a perfectly clear sky overhead, it was somehow snowing. We cackled a bit at our fortune in witnessing such a miraculous event in this city of miracles. Santiago de Compostela is the city at the end of the Camino, a hundreds-of-kilometers long route of pilgrimage for French and Spanish Catholics. Since the Middle Ages, the road has been traversed by pilgrims seeking spiritual growth in their quest to behold the purported remains of Saint James. Apparently, the bones of the great "Moor-killer" were discovered by a hermit in 813 AD through an angelic revelation. Since then, the town has reaped the rewards of a booming tourist industry during various ages, including our own.

Our pilgrimage this time around had another focus, and we skipped most of the Compostela sights, although I did snap a few shots of the Church and a large crowd "manifesting" in the square below it.

We were in the front of the line when the Frida exhibit opened at noon. The lay-out of the exhibit was exceptional, with rooms filled with general information about her life, photos of her and Diego Rivera, and several pieces of her work, including some from a private collection that is rarely open to the public. It was hard, however, to come face to face with such personal torture in canvas after canvas. The whole experience was very moving, and my words could not begin to do it justice so I will shy away from any further description.

We took our lunch in a building just a few meters from the exhibit's exit. Not long after that, we headed off, on foot, back to the bus station to retrieve the bags we'd left in lockers there and then made it to our afternoon flight back to Ibiza.

I feel so lucky to be able to experience Spain in small installments, one weekend, one exhibit at a time, and in between have a nice soft bed and real-life schedule to exist inside. I came home and crashed, slept ten hours, then woke up and began the life-tasks of laundry washing and hanging, grocery shopping, downloading pictures, and emailing all of the people I left at home. I wonder what I'll be writing home about next Monday...

Letter Home from Kate

Kate Starbird sends us the following note... Jamila Wideman is on the point guard. It's typical Wideman defense. The ball handler is having a bit of trouble. Again. She tries to cross over and it's a... steal. STEAL, WIDEMAN.

She has the ball now. She's crossing mid-court. Kate Starbird is streaking down the right lane. She has a step on her defender. Wideman sees her and fires a pass up the court.


It may all seem quite familiar, a replay from a worn-out cassette or a nostalgic memory, until the announcer breaks through the cheers and lifts the veil of time.


The uniforms are red, but not cardinal. The numbers on the back aren't quite right. Our trusty ponytails, Jamila's and mine, are absent. Instead, we both wear goofy-looking headbands to hold back our now-short hair. That streaking motion down the lane wasn't quite as lightning fast as it used to be, and Jamila's foot fire doesn't mesmerize with such a high frequency. We're not 21 anymore. In fact, we're not even in our twenties. We're both 30 and we're in Spain. Jamila survives on a bottle of Advil, while I opt out of every other practice, substituting pool work-outs and hour-long stretching sessions in instead. Jam holds her team huddles in Espangles. I yell out "bloqueo" when she's about to get nailed by a screen. We're a long way from Stanford, in both time and distance. But, I still have my old knee-pads, though they are a bit more hole-y now, and Jamila still drives the opposing point guard up the wall with her smothering defense, which I now recognize as 100% pure effort. And we're still playing this game we love so much. We live in Ibiza, Spain and play for a club called, "Puig D'en Vals." Our town, Santa Eularia, is about 20 kilometers north of Ibiza city. It is a tourist town, and pretty darn quiet now that the summer season has ended and the German and British sun-seekers have all packed up and gone home. Our apartment sits over the now empty boardwalk and our balcony looks out onto the Mediterranean. A few palm trees offer the only obstruction to our view. Through our open windows, we can hear the waves hit the small stretch of beach below.

The situation is close to being both perfect and poetic, two former Stanford teammates reunited on a court in an island paradise. I can't say I ever imagined my life turning out exactly like this, but I offer up no complaints. Who could?

I can't pretend to know exactly how or why Jamila ended up here with me, but I know why I'm here. Luck. Amazing luck. And luck that I didn't always recognize as good until I began to sit back and enjoy the ride I've been on since I showed up for my first day on the Stanford campus, limping. This game has been a journey as well as its boat. It has introduced me to amazing people and transported me all over the world. It has directed me and defined me, pushed me down and picked me back up again. I have allowed it to take me to great heights and suffered when it let me fall. I have cursed it and called it ugly names. At this moment, watching a thunderstorm release its fury on my idyllic Ibician horizon, I recognize it all as a road that led me here, both in physical and mental space, and I know that this game has been one of the great gifts of my life, and I am thankful for both the journey and the very moment I have.

We have practice tonight at 7. It should be pretty tough, because we lost this weekend. We'll warm up, stretch (and I take that oh-so-seriously now), then run our legs off for almost two hours. Afterwards, we'll be drenched in sweat from the combination of effort and the soupy, wet air in the gym. My t-shirt will actually be soaked through, my lungs sore from the burn. I'll stop off for a massage in the training room, a daily necessity for my old, aching back. It will be after 10 before I get home. I'll make myself a quick dinner and write a few emails home. Then I'll hit my bed and fall asleep to the sound of the waves rolling into the shore.

I am 30 years old and still playing basketball for a living in Ibiza, Spain. Not a bad deal.

-- Kate