Jim Larrañaga and Miami basketball had one of those banner days an up-and-coming program needs; landing two future superstars who were weighing options with a handful of other programs.
Bruce Brown—a 4-star shooting guard—chose the Hurricanes over Indiana’s Hoosiers early Wednesday morning. Brown was ranked No. 30 in ESPN’s Top 100 players.
Hours later it was 5-star power forward Dewan Huell picking Miami over South Carolina; the local product eliminating Florida State recently and choosing to stay home. Brown and Huell coupled with 4-star center Rodney Hill signing back in August—it’s given the Hurricanes what looks to be a Top Ten class when all is said and done.
Aside from Huell being a top-flight talent, the fact that he’s from nearby Miami Norland bodes well for locking down South Florida and that State of Miami mentality that has always been the lifeblood of the football program.
Is Huell’s commitment a sign of things to come—the Canes already targeting Miami Senior High center Zach Brown for 2017; proving to local kids that “The U” is becoming a basketball school, while football works its way back into the fold.
This is all stellar news for Miami basketball and a tribute to the job Coach L is doing on and off the court.
Outside of signing top talent and the Canes picking up a few solid wins to get the season rolling, Larrañaga has been “dormstorming” and luring students to games, while also pushing ticket sales at his camps. That, combined with 25 wins last season, have Miami’s season ticket sales topping the 5,400 mark—the best in the program’s history.
The intent when starting this piece wasn’t to hijack it and turn it into something football or coaching search-related, but the parallels are there. Plus, it’s mid-November, these two future stars won’t be in the mix until a year from now and until ACC play truly gets underway, it’s hard to overly focus on basketball.
All the hardwood success and recent gridiron failures aside, “The U” is still a football school.
That being the case, all current energy is understandably focused on the search for a head coach and a general uneasiness that the University of Miami will settle for reaching base on an error instead of the home-run hire this program needs.
The Hurricanes were fortunate when Larrañaga fell into the program’s lap spring 2011. A series of events set things in motion; highlighted by George Mason preside Alan Merten stepping down, while Missouri tabbed then Miami head coach Frank Haith for their opening.
Larrañaga was at a crossroads career-wise; 61 years old and having given the Patriots a Cinderella-type run to the Final Four years prior. Merten’s pending departure also hit him as he and Larrañaga were close friends. Knowing he had one more stop in him, Coach L reached out to Miami, interviewed well, the timing was right and he wound up replacing Haith.
Unfortunately for football, nothing that serendipitous has happened over the past three coaching hires. Larry Coker maintained a loaded squad for a year and change, before the effects were felt. Upon his firing, the hopes that Randy Shannon would lean on his history with the program to get things back on track. Not so much, as the former linebacker and defensive coordinator was way in over his head.
Regarding the recently-fired Al Golden, seemed like a solid infrastructure was being built in regards to football camps, repairing relationships with high school coaches and seemingly getting things cleaned up recruiting-wise—despite the early hiccups associated with Shapirogate and years of a broken culture.
In the end, Golden failed, too—stubbornness, a flawed defensive scheme, an inability to adapt and a zero understanding as to what makes the Hurricanes’ program tick.
Think back to Miami’s basketball program under Haith. Prior to that, the failed Perry Clark era—five year that felt like a failed decade. The Hurricanes were becoming something under Leonard Hamilton in the late nineties, but just before Davis left the football program for the NFL, the long time basketball coach took his talents to Washington.
Davis flamed out with the Browns, Hamilton lasted a year with the Wizards—going 19-63; a franchise low. Davis wound up at eventual ACC rival North Carolina, as Miami was stuck with Coker. Hamilton took over at Florida State, while the Canes were saddled with Clark.
Timing-wise it all worked out for Miami basketball—with Larrañaga the key to the turnaround and program’s giant leap forward into relevance.
As the University of Miami figures out which direction to go in regards to the hiring of a quality football coach—look no further than Hurricanes’ basketball and The Larrañaga Effect.
Right guy. Right fit. Right place. Right time. Right results. The fit is undeniable and as a result, a one-time football power is transitioning into a basketball school. Time to bring football back to its rightful spot and to turn the Canes around on the gridiron with a Larrañaga-like hire.