Apr 25, 2011
Larranaga Leaves George Mason For Miami

Anybody who wondered whether 61-year-old Jim Larranaga has enough energy left in his tank to tackle the University of Miami basketball job got their answer Friday night, when the former George Mason coach was formally introduced as the new Hurricanes coach at a news conference at the school’s field house.

Larranaga, who left an indelible mark on George Mason after 14 years there and led the Patriots to an unlikely 2006 Final Four run, walked up to the microphone and screamed in his thick New York accent: “I’m excited to be here, ain’t no question about it!”

He quoted Confucius, talked a mile a minute about his scramble full-court defense (which other coaches, including UM women’s coach Katie Meier, have studied on his instructional videos), going into dorms to recruit student fans, forging relationships with local high school and AAU coaches, and building a thrilling, winning team “so everyone is going to be dying to get a ticket and seat to watch us play!”

“You may say, ‘That ain’t happening here.’ I’ve heard that stuff before and I want to create that atmosphere here. … I love a challenge!”

If you closed your eyes, he sounded like his good friend Dick Vitale, who wrote on Twitter: “Miami hit a grand slam in getting Jim Larranaga from George Mason. He is a fierce competitor & has loads of contacts. Great hire!”

UM players watched and listened. Rion Brown admitted he considered transferring when Frank Haith left, but Larranaga’s speech “calmed my nerves.” Malcolm Grant, a New Yorker, said he liked what he heard, too, and hopes center Reggie Johnson will come back and reconsider his decision to enter the NBA Draft.

The man lovingly known as “Coach L” around Virginia and the D.C. area said he was very happy at George Mason. He had a close relationship with university president Alan Merten, made good money ($525, 000 base salary, $700, 000 with incentives) and had most of his players coming back from a 27-7 team that won more games than any in the school’s history. He was a campus icon after leading the Patriots to five NCAA Tournaments in 14 years — as many as UM has made in 26 years.

‘I’m crazy’

So, why, at his age, would he leave a comfortable situation for a radical move to Miami and the ACC, to a place with the lowest attendance (4, 700) in the league?

“I’m crazy, he said, laughing. He then explained that when Merten recently announced he was retiring next year, Larranaga assessed his own career and unfinished business. It’s kind of the last piece in a coaching career, to finalize what I hope to be about. This opportunity is very special to me. I thought about goals I have not been able to accomplish in my 40 years. I’d love to coach in the ACC, take teams to Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Dean Dome, compete at the highest level.”

He also has ties to Florida. His grandfather (“who pronounced our name Larra-naga” with a rolling “r”) came from Cuba to Key West, and his father was born and raised there.

The family vacationed in the Keys and Kissimmee when Larranaga was a child. Three of his five siblings live in Florida.

He has a sister in Naples, a brother in Fort Myers and a brother in Sarasota. He and his wife, Liz, bought a second home near Sarasota seven years ago.

“I feel like I’m back home at Miami, he said.

And he has many friends in Miami, a few of whom helped him connect with UM for the job. Larranaga works at Michael Jordan’s Sr. Flight School” in Las Vegas during the summers, a $17, 500 three-day camp for people 35-and-older who want to play basketball and mingle with basketball stars. Jose and Jorge Mas, of Miami’s Mas Tec Corp., attended the camp some years ago and befriended Larranaga.

Getting their man

When Haith left for Missouri two weeks ago and the UM job opened up, Larranaga called the Mas brothers and inquired. They asked him if he would be interested, and Wednesday night, he spoke to newly hired athletic director Shawn Eichorst for the first time. By the end of that conversation, Eichorst knew he had his man. Friday morning, they agreed on a contract, believed to be for five years at an annual salary of about $1.1 million.

Eichorst said age was never an issue. “Just a number, he said. Some people think I’m too young [at 44] for this job, too. I don’t pay attention to age. I could hear the passion and energy in his voice. He sounds 40.”

Sammy Hernandez, a local YMCA director who grew up in Miami and played under Larranaga at George Mason on that Final Four team, attended the news conference. He knows first-hand what the coach will bring to UM.

“Frank Haith is a great person and great coach, and he did a good job, but I think Coach L could do better because of his years of experience, he said. He’s been in the Final Four, and knows what it takes.”

George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor told the Washington Post and The Associated Press that UM offered a financial package George Mason couldn’t match.

“In all honesty, the university can only go so far with finances, O’Connor said, according to the AP. We think we put together a very, very attractive financial compensation package. We couldn’t compete with an ACC school, a big football school with its budget.”


Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/22/v-fullstory/2180719/um-hires-jim-larranaga-as-new.html#ixzz1KY6p2TOF

Larranaga Leaves George Mason For Miami

Miami Herald, Michelle Kaufman

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/22/2180719/um-hires-jim-larranaga-as-new.html

Anybody who wondered whether 61-year-old Jim Larranaga has enough energy left in his tank to tackle the University of Miami basketball job got their answer Friday night, when the former George Mason coach was formally introduced as the new Hurricanes coach at a news conference at the school’s field house.

Larranaga, who left an indelible mark on George Mason after 14 years there and led the Patriots to an unlikely 2006 Final Four run, walked up to the microphone and screamed in his thick New York accent: “I’m excited to be here, ain’t no question about it!”

He quoted Confucius, talked a mile a minute about his scramble full-court defense (which other coaches, including UM women’s coach Katie Meier, have studied on his instructional videos), going into dorms to recruit student fans, forging relationships with local high school and AAU coaches, and building a thrilling, winning team “so everyone is going to be dying to get a ticket and seat to watch us play!”

“You may say, ‘That ain’t happening here.’ I’ve heard that stuff before and I want to create that atmosphere here. … I love a challenge!”

If you closed your eyes, he sounded like his good friend Dick Vitale, who wrote on Twitter: “Miami hit a grand slam in getting Jim Larranaga from George Mason. He is a fierce competitor & has loads of contacts. Great hire!”

UM players watched and listened. Rion Brown admitted he considered transferring when Frank Haith left, but Larranaga’s speech “calmed my nerves.” Malcolm Grant, a New Yorker, said he liked what he heard, too, and hopes center Reggie Johnson will come back and reconsider his decision to enter the NBA Draft.

The man lovingly known as “Coach L” around Virginia and the D.C. area said he was very happy at George Mason. He had a close relationship with university president Alan Merten, made good money ($525, 000 base salary, $700, 000 with incentives) and had most of his players coming back from a 27-7 team that won more games than any in the school’s history. He was a campus icon after leading the Patriots to five NCAA Tournaments in 14 years — as many as UM has made in 26 years.

‘I’m crazy’

So, why, at his age, would he leave a comfortable situation for a radical move to Miami and the ACC, to a place with the lowest attendance (4, 700) in the league?

“I’m crazy, he said, laughing. He then explained that when Merten recently announced he was retiring next year, Larranaga assessed his own career and unfinished business. It’s kind of the last piece in a coaching career, to finalize what I hope to be about. This opportunity is very special to me. I thought about goals I have not been able to accomplish in my 40 years. I’d love to coach in the ACC, take teams to Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Dean Dome, compete at the highest level.”

He also has ties to Florida. His grandfather (“who pronounced our name Larra-naga” with a rolling “r”) came from Cuba to Key West, and his father was born and raised there.

The family vacationed in the Keys and Kissimmee when Larranaga was a child. Three of his five siblings live in Florida.

He has a sister in Naples, a brother in Fort Myers and a brother in Sarasota. He and his wife, Liz, bought a second home near Sarasota seven years ago.

“I feel like I’m back home at Miami, he said.

And he has many friends in Miami, a few of whom helped him connect with UM for the job. Larranaga works at Michael Jordan’s Sr. Flight School” in Las Vegas during the summers, a $17, 500 three-day camp for people 35-and-older who want to play basketball and mingle with basketball stars. Jose and Jorge Mas, of Miami’s Mas Tec Corp., attended the camp some years ago and befriended Larranaga.

Getting their man

When Haith left for Missouri two weeks ago and the UM job opened up, Larranaga called the Mas brothers and inquired. They asked him if he would be interested, and Wednesday night, he spoke to newly hired athletic director Shawn Eichorst for the first time. By the end of that conversation, Eichorst knew he had his man. Friday morning, they agreed on a contract, believed to be for five years at an annual salary of about $1.1 million.

Eichorst said age was never an issue. “Just a number, he said. Some people think I’m too young [at 44] for this job, too. I don’t pay attention to age. I could hear the passion and energy in his voice. He sounds 40.”

Sammy Hernandez, a local YMCA director who grew up in Miami and played under Larranaga at George Mason on that Final Four team, attended the news conference. He knows first-hand what the coach will bring to UM.

“Frank Haith is a great person and great coach, and he did a good job, but I think Coach L could do better because of his years of experience, he said. He’s been in the Final Four, and knows what it takes.”

George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor told the Washington Post and The Associated Press that UM offered a financial package George Mason couldn’t match.

“In all honesty, the university can only go so far with finances, O’Connor said, according to the AP. We think we put together a very, very attractive financial compensation package. We couldn’t compete with an ACC school, a big football school with its budget.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/22/v-fullstory/2180719/um-hires-jim-larranaga-as-new.html#ixzz1KY6p2TOF






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