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Larranaga leads veteran squad to ACC dominance

Jim Larranaga tripped and nearly hit the pavement as he greeted several hundred voracious fans lined up hours before the Duke game on Jan. 23.
So he turned on his heel, started to laugh, and rolled his hands to signal a traveling call – on himself.
The 63-year-old coach hasn’t hit a bump in the road since.
Miami was flying high after a flawless week that saw two hugely important home victories over the top-ranked Blue Devils and the Florida State Seminoles. Midway through its grueling schedule, the Canes already had a lot to celebrate:
At last, basketball at the U developed from an afterthought into primetime entertainment.
At last, the standard ACC powerhouses aren’t just beatable – they’re beneath us.
At last, we’re not begging students to walk 45 steps from Hecht to the BUC. We’re turning away latecomers because the arena is already at capacity.
We have Larranaga to thank.
His knowledge, charisma and energy have ignited the Hurricanes since he took the job in 2011.
The team’s 13-0 stretch of conference dominance is the product of Larranaga’s exciting brand of basketball.
It’s a fierce team mindset that starts with a swarming defensive foundation.
The Canes held all but one of their opponents in January to fewer than 60 points.
The one squad that was able to break the barrier was Duke, which scored 63. But as we all know, by then Miami was well on its way to 90.
There were hints of this growth last season: Miami finished 9-7 in the ACC, a mark that showed some potential but fell short of a NCAA Tournament berth. The overtime road win at Cameron Indoor was galvanizing, but the Canes failed to sustain that momentum.
This year was different. Miami built on that experience and benefits from veteran leadership; four of Miami’s five starters were seniors.
Julian Gamble, while admittedly less orange, threw down put-back dunks like a young Jimmy Graham.
Durand Scott and Shane Larkin are both intelligent ball handlers who created their own shots or found the open man as they led Miami to a school-record 29 wins and an outright ACC title.
Leonard Hamilton was full of genuine respect after the Hurricanes trounced his lagging Seminoles.
“There is no question this is a top team in America, a nationally ranked team, and they will have a chance to earn their rightful place,” he said.
Hamilton led the Canes to their previous all-time best ranking (No. 9) and a trip to the Sweet 16 during his time on Miami’s bench, which makes his high praise even more gratifying.
The Hurricanes soared to No. 2 in the nation this past season, and made the Sweet 16 again before getting overwhelmed by Marquette.
It was a year full of “firsts” for Miami, which now must rebuild around a young core of incoming talent. The seniors are gone, and Larkin is on his way to a first-round selection in the NBA draft.
Canes fans can take solace, however, in the promising tenure of Larranaga, who will not be deterred by a lack of star power.
We got to shine bright in the spotlight through a magical 2013 season. Now it’s time to get back to work.

June 21, 2013

Reporters

Spencer Dandes


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