As I sat in the Miami Basketball Practice Facility and listened to new head coach Jim Larranaga speak, I had a smile on my face. If you missed the press conference, I urge you to watch it now.
Maybe we make too much out of these ‘meet the press’ moments. Can you really ‘win’ the press conference?
After having attended hundreds of events like this in my time covering both Miami athletics and other programs / franchises, I an say this; I’ve gotten a good feel for judging a person’s character from a press conference.
I don’t have the ability to predict win totals or conference titles, but I sure can figure out if it is a good fit or not and this, my friends is as perfect a fit as ‘The U’ is going to get.
A major booster asked my opinion on the hire before the festivities got started and my answer was pretty straight forward With the choices available and with what the Miami administration feels its “core values” are, this is an amazing hire. This program needs a unique coach to fit a unique school and with that the case, the Canes have their man.
Truth be told, Larranaga probably would’ve been a George Mason lifer had president Alan Merten not announced his retirement weeks back. Because of that, the Patriots’ loss was the Canes’ gain.
It was encouraging to hear that Coach Larranaga eyed this job early on and used his connections in South Florida to throw his hat in the ring. That let UM know that he wanted to be in Coral Gables and sees promise in this job.
A coach with Final Four experience and years spent at a winning program doesn’t just sign on for the money. Larranaga sees potential at Miami, which should excite long-time fans of this team.
Some will look at the 61-year old Larranaga and say he’s headed to South Florida to retire. Maybe in the back of his mind he felt that spending the final years of his coaching career in a warm climate was advantageous, but again someone with Larranaga’s resume won’t solely find satisfaction surrounding himself with other snow birds. Coach took this job to win; not to finish his career by losing.
If I read the situation right, I see a guy that wants to prove to himself (and probably to others) that he can coach with the big boys.
Without even coaching game one in the ACC, it’s safe to say that Jim Larranaga is at least the fifth best coach in this conference. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Maryland’s Gary Williams are your obvious top three.
After that, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton deserves mention after a solid run at Florida State this past decade, taking the Noles to the NCAA Tourney three times; Larranaga has taken George Mason to the Big Dance five times – at least putting him right there with LH.
If you’re Larranaga entering the final stage of your career, do you want to match wits and test your skills against fresh faces Shaka Smart and Mo Cassara these next few years – or do you want a shot at the big boys and legends like Krzyzewski and Williams?
Larranaga made it a point to say that he’s going to conquer the challenge of fan/student support at UM. He said he’ll go into the dormitories to recruit students to come to game, if need be. He wants his players and staff active in the community and he’ll do whatever it takes to get people backing his team.
Larranaga comes to South Florida from the D.C. Metro area; an area with even more roadblocks and events that keep fans from attending a college basketball game. There are a handful of other major colleges in the area, as well as the Wizards, the Capitals, the Nationals, the Redskins, and a little thing called politics. This won’t be the first time Coach Larranaga has dealt with support issues, thinking up clever ways to entice a fan base.
In sports, there’s a thing called the “lobby test” for athletes. When an athlete walks into the lobby of a hotel, if passers-by stop to ooh, ahh and gawk, the player has passed the eyeball test. For coaches it’s a “command the room” test and Coach Larranaga absolutely commanded the room on Friday evening. Upon taking the podium, he didn’t have to think twice.
Time will tell if players pick up his scramble defense, if these Canes can play smarter basketball and if ‘The U’ starts attracting more players from South Florida and around the state, but for now, Coach Larranaga is 1-0 as he absolutely “won” the press conference.
Tune into this week’s edition of allCanes Radio as there will be a lot more on this hire and the direction this athletic department is going. Until then, enjoy this hire as this was a great move for UM basketball.
Lastly, drop on by allCanes today at 5pm for our second signing session of spring. In the house today – Allen Bailey, Brandon Harris, Graig Cooper, Ryan Hill and Matt Bosher. They’ll be signing 8x10s from JC Ridley at CaneShooter.com, as well as mini-helmets and other pieces of UM schwag.
Drop by, say ‘hi’ and let’s talk Canes. I love hearing your thoughts and I pride myself on embracing the fans, because first and foremost I am one.