Before the coaching bug bit him, Tad Boyle worked on Boulder’s Pearl Street in the investment banking industry during the mid-1990s. At that time coach Joe Harrington led the Colorado men’s basketball program, and Boyle was a frequent visitor to the Coors Events Center.
After Boyle took over the CU program more than a decade later, one of his most passionate behind-the-scenes endeavors was to build what previously had been an almost nonexistent bridge between CU’s broad pool of basketball alums with the current team.
This weekend, the Buffaloes are hosting their fourth annual alumni event, with the players and coaches from Harrington’s era (the 1990-91 season into the 1995-96 season) visiting Boulder. The previous alumni weekends have targeted specific coaching eras at CU, with this weekend’s Harrington era reunion having been preceded by similar weekends the tenures of Bill Blair, Tom Apke, and Tom Miller.
“I remember coming up and watching his teams play. They had some good teams,” Boyle said. “This whole idea is to bring the old and blend it with the new. I want the players who played in that era to always understand they’re always a part of this program, whether they played for Joe Harrington or Tom Miller or Tom Apke or Bill Blair. It doesn’t matter if they played in the 60s or 70s or 80s or 90s. We’re all Buffs. I talked to Joe Harrington and he said he hasn’t been here since 1996.”
Harrington expressed fond memories of his first CU team in 1990-91, a group he inherited from Miller that he led to the Final Four of the NIT and a third-place finish during a time when the tournament still held semifinal consolation games.
Harrington’s Donnie Boyce-led club also reached the NIT in 1995 but things fell apart early the following season, with Harrington eventually resigning after the Buffs struggled to a 5-8 start. Assistant Ricardo Patton took over and held that post for another 11 seasons, but that 1995-96 campaign that marked Harrington’s end also marked the start of the legendary career for a certain CU freshman named Chauncey Billups.
A year later Billups, working with a cast largely put together by Harrington, led CU to 22 wins and a memorable NCAA Tournament win against Indiana.
“I don’t look back and think, ‘What if?’ I’m just glad I was able to be successful in recruiting him to come to Colorado,” Harrington said. “He changed the face of Colorado basketball. An All-American player that comes to Colorado? I like to think that had a little to do with what’s going on here today just by being here.”