Sports

Hurricane sports in transition

The future is bright.

It seems as if this has been the underlying theme for Miami athletics the past few years. No matter how frustrating, repetitive or perplexing a season might have seemed, there was always the hope for the future. “Next year” was always the year to look forward to.

While I won’t say that everything has been fixed already, for the first time in years there is a genuine feeling of confidence and excitement sweeping Miami.

When a program hires new coaches for both football and men’s basketball and a new athletic director in the span of about four months, in most cases you would think that program is a complete mess. But in this particular case, there is reason to be excited.

Remember the days right after Randy Shannon was fired following an inexcusable loss to USF that put them at 7-5, when names such as Jon Gruden and Tommy Tuberville were the hot topic. None of those names worked out and Miami was forced to “settle” for Temple’s Al Golden.

What a drastic turnaround. From the days when everything was restricted, connections between fans were lost and the “process” always seemed to be on hold, now we see updates on the team almost daily. Golden has salvaged a recruiting class that initially looked helpless, invited alumni back to the sidelines and developed initiatives like “UStrength.” Most importantly, he has taken to holding players accountable. Not something you could say about the Shannon era.

Hurricane basketball is also picking up steam and should be just as exciting when the season starts up again. Look at what head coach Katie Meier and the women’s team was able to accomplish this year: Going from worst to first in a tough ACC and making it to the NCAA for the first time since switching conferences. Juniors Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams were always fun to watch, and sophomore Morgan Stroman is an up-and-coming star. All that being said, one of the more frustrating eras came to an end when former coach Frank Haith stepped away from the men’s basketball program to coach Missouri. That period was mired by a 43-69 record in the ACC in seven years with teams that, while talented, remained consistently inconsistent and struggled to attract fans approximately 20 steps away.

Enter Jim Larranaga. He hasn’t even been with Miami a week and you can already feel the excitement from students and players alike. He brings NCAA Tournament experience, having been there five times with George Mason (including a run to the Final Four in 2006). He is a genuinely likeable person. The players were excited after their first workouts. Even fans are excited to see the change (Larranaga was actually a trending topic on Twitter).

The last few years have been disappointing to say the least. Graduating seniors had to bear the brunt of most of that, with the closure of the Orange thing in between. It’s an era that now comes to an end. There’s reason to believe that good things are coming. So while most are looking forward to the end of the semester and enjoying a long summer, I don’t think fall can get here soon enough.

Ernesto Suarez may be contacted at esuarez@themiamihurricane.com

April 27, 2011

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Ernesto Suarez

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