This afternoon several reports hit the web saying that the University of Miami had contacted George Mason University, asking for and receiving permission to speak with head basketball coach Jim Larranaga.
I spent some time leafing through Larranaga’s bio this afternoon and kept asking myself why his name hadn’t been thrown in the mix for more jobs before today. Maybe the belief has been that he wasn’t going to leave George Mason after turning down overtures from other schools in the past.
Regardless, I’m 99% in on this one. Larranaga is a very good coach and he’s taken his Patriots to the Big Dance five times in fourteen seasons. He’s been the post-season (NCAA, NIT, CIT) nine times in fourteen years, as well. His teams have won the conference title four times and while the Colonial Athletic Association is not the Atlantic Coast Conference, it’s still a feat to come out on top anytime, anywhere and anyplace.
George Mason was ranked 37th in scoring defense this year and Miami wasn’t ranked at all. Larranaga preaches tough defense and coaches his team to play smart basketball.
The lone negative; age. He’s 61 years old and this isn’t an age discrimination issues, it’s simply a reality issue. For Miami’s sake, your goal is to land a guy on the rise who can give you the next ten to fifteen years of his coaching life. Think about it, had Leonard Hamilton never have left for the Washington Wizards, he’s have just wrapped up his 21st season at ‘The U’. Imagine where this program would be two decades under Hamilton.
Stability and consistency are staples to building and sustaining a top-notch program. That said, beggars can’t be chooser and Miami basketball isn’t in the same place today as it was when LH took over in 1990. There’s some talent on campus and the Canes now have their own arena. It shouldn’t take a decade to get Miami ready for a March run, so the positives are definitely outweighing the negatives.
Larranaga is known as a promoter, a marketeer and a storyteller. From that standpoint alone, he’s exactly what Miami needs. He’s from The Bronx, which means he’ll understand that over-the-top Canes fan from the northeast; the type of fans who don’t exactly march to the beat of the same drum as folks in Chapel Hill, Durham or Clemson.
I can’t tell you how far along conversations are with Larranaga and I’m not sure if new athletic director Shawn Eichorst is still planning on speaking with Wisconsin-Milwakuee’s Rob Jeter. Besides those two names, who else might be on the short list? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I’d be a bit perturbed if there wasn’t at least a conversation with Kansas State’s Frank Martin.
As discussed here before, UM probably knows all they need to know about Martin and based on what our new athletic director is looking for, the Wildcats head coach probably doesn’t fit the profile. Still, your “customers” need to know that you’re listening to them and Hurricane fans have been talking up Martin for weeks now. That in itself shouldn’t impact the hire, but as fans (and alum and donors), their opinions should could for something. Miami doesn’t need to hire Martin, but in good faith needs to at least speak with him.
Martin aside, Larranaga is the best candidate for this job right now. He’s only six years older than Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg and a decade older than the out of work Bruce Pearl. He’s a proven #WINNER and for once it’d be a move that made sense without any extra explanation. No one would have to talk-up this hire and no one would need convincing that Larranaga knows how to win. Should this one happen, we could all quote the eclectic Randal Hill as he trekked up that Cotton Bowl tunnel two decades back, the hire would be ‘too easy’.
IN OTHER NEWS : Don’t forget that we have another big time signing session this weekend at allCanes. In this house this Saturday – Brandon Harris, Allen Bailey, Graig Cooper, Ryan Hill and Matt Bosher. For those who can’t make it, we’re taking pre-orders for 8x10s.
Again, CaneShooter.com’s JC Ridley has provided two great action shots of each Cane, which will ship by Monday if you order between now and Sunday.
Lastly, if you missed last night’s edition of allCanes Radio, check it out. Call me biased, but I really don’t believe you’ll find a more comprehensive two-hour Canes show out there. We talked about the new athletic director, the search for a new basketball coach and dedicated a full hour to nothing but spring football. Have at it and Go Canes!