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Utah Jazz: Matt Harpring's love story is all about basketball

Published: Monday, Aug. 2 2010 10:43 p.m. MDT

Camp participants laugh as they listen to former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray on Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News) Camp participants laugh as they listen to former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray on Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News)

MURRAY — Matt Harpring, as you might have heard, used to play football. The pigskin fan also likes to dabble in the stock market, gets a kick out of teaching kids at camps in Utah and Atlanta, and occasionally enjoys sharing his conservative outlook — something he humorously did with his former Utah Jazz teammates from time to time.

But the biggest space in his heart is reserved for another passion. And, though he seemed addicted to it during his NBA playing days, going under the knife to repair his banged-up body is not what we're talking about here.

"There's people that love fishing and hunting. Everyone has their love," Harpring said. "My love is basketball. That's what I know. ... I like being part of the game."

Former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring teaches the pick-n-roll to participants during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray on Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News) Former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring teaches the pick-n-roll to participants during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray on Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News)

Earning a living through hoops, something he loved doing for the past 12 years, is what he plans on continuing to do, too.

Being a basketball broadcaster is about to become a full-time gig for the ex-Jazz small forward, who is currently hosting his ninth-annual camp at The Park Place rec center.

"That's what I want to do," Harpring said.

He admitted that part. He even admitted to having a job lined up.

But he wouldn't admit which team (one of his old clubs, like the Jazz, Oklahoma City or Georgia Tech?) or which network (he lives near TNT's studio in Atlanta) will soon become his new employer.

"I can't tell you," he said.

Former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring leads participants in stretches during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News) Former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring leads participants in stretches during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News)

Well, he could, but he'd have to set a killer Matt Harpring pick on you if he divulged the secret.

Jazz fans and NBA-TV viewers got a taste of what the future holds in store for Harpring last season when the sidelined player did some on-camera color commentary and analysis work in his spare time.

After a season of experimenting, Harpring discovered that he prefers doing in-game color commentary over sitting in the studio analyzing the entire league.

"I love doing the color. ... You're involved in the game," he said. "You feel like you're a part of it. You get the emotions, you get the ups and the downs, the adrenaline. It's the next best thing to playing without playing."

Best part?

Former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring laughs about a missed dunk by one of his camp teachers as he talks to participants during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray on Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News) Former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring laughs about a missed dunk by one of his camp teachers as he talks to participants during his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray on Thursday. (August Miller, Deseret News)

No icing of joints is required after the final buzzer.

Harpring's interest in becoming a broadcaster piqued after he did a guest spot with Hot Rod Hundley on a Jazz game about five years ago. The former Jazz play-by-play commentator told Harpring, "You've got to do this. You're a natural at this."

Hundley continued to encourage Harpring over the ensuing seasons, and he took the compliment and advice to heart as he pondered a post-NBA future. Since then, Harpring has tuned in to the broadcast team to learn from the pros while watching any sporting event — football, basketball or baseball.

Harpring has also considered going into coaching, and that could be a career move in the future. But he and wife, Amanda, have three children all 4 years old and younger, so he doesn't feel the timing is right yet.

Broadcasting will allow him to keep a somewhat normal home life — at least when compared to playing or coaching — while sticking close to his favorite pastime.

Though Harpring won't announce his new job, Jazz fans might not want to get their hopes up that he'll join Utah's commentator crew.

Harpring's wife is a doctor and has a sweet one-day-a-week job in Atlanta. That allows her to practice medicine on Thursdays and be a full-time mom the rest of the week.

"It's good for her because it gets her back in the professional world. She's not Matt's wife or the NBA wife. Over there, she's regarded as Dr. Harpring," said Dr. Harpring's husband between conducting drills at his camp.

"It's a great situation for her."

The Harprings also recently built a three-story home in Georgia. One of the house's features is an elevator, which Harpring installed "just in case" his hammered body couldn't handle climbing the stairs in 10 years.

Fortunately, the elevator isn't necessary now. Harpring, who hasn't played since the spring of 2009, is feeling in tip-top shape — most of the time.

"This year off without playing, my body has come back," Harpring said. "It feels better than I ever thought it would."

He exercises, walks without a limp after waking up and even briefly entertains "What if?" thoughts of playing again. His 34-year-old body, which has suffered a slew of injuries and endured more than a dozen surgeries for name-the-part, reminds him after a tough workout why enduring a grueling NBA season is no longer possible.

"When the body goes, the body goes — and my body went," Harpring said. "I would love to play until I'm 50, but it doesn't happen."

More than ever, Harpring simply appreciates the blessings of good health and a busy family life.

The gritty and gutsy former NBA player also has fond memories of doing things the right way during his career. He didn't try to "cheat the system" while coming back from injuries or when stepping on the court.

"I always went about it through just hard work and through pain and through just determination to get back onto the court, kind of the old-fashioned way," Harping said. "I kind of pride myself to know that I never took a shortcut that I'm disappointed in. Every morning, I could hold my head up high."

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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