Haith leads Hurricanes back to prominence

I would like to nominate men’s basketball Head Coach Frank Haith for more than ACC Coach of the Year. I think he’s the National Coach of the Year.

I know that Al Skinner and Boston College are 20-1 and the Eagles have been playing tremendous basketball, but let’s examine what Haith has done with this University of Miami team.

The ‘Canes have 15 victories and are 6-5 in the ACC, a very strong basketball conference. Haith’s squad also beat Maryland this season; the same Terrapins team that beat Duke twice.

Haith inherited a team from Perry Clark that was abysmal last season. It failed to even qualify for the Big East tournament and lost several close games because it had an inability to make defensive stops late in games. The offense consisted of passing the ball around the perimeter and chucking three-point shots. The team struggled on both ends of the court and after a solid start was left reeling in Big East play and out of postseason contention.

This year, the Hurricanes have locked up at least an NIT bid and are a contender to make the NCAA Tournament. If they can get 18 wins, they will likely be a bubble team. If they get to 19 wins, I think they will get in. They have five games left plus the ACC Tournament to make their case for the NCAA Tournament and if you get in the dance, anything can happen.

The turnaround of the Hurricanes can only be attributed to one man: Haith. He gets the credit because he is winning with virtually the same team that Clark could not win with. As a matter of fact, a legitimate case could be made that this year’s team talent-wise is worse than last year’s since Darius Rice is gone. Haith’s star players-Diaz, Hite, and Anthony Harris-are all guys that Clark had last season. Harris never saw the light of day in the Hurricanes lineup and Diaz and Hite have each improved their games under Haith.

Under Clark, a player hardly ever got any better, the team played no defense and lacked leadership and direction. Under Haith, this team plays solid fundamental basketball and has found ways to win games. The Hurricanes have pulled out close victories throughout the season.

So here’s a team who failed to make the Big East Tournament and was projected to finish last in the ACC, and they are contending for a NCAA Tournament bid. If that doesn’t make Haith a National Coach of the Year candidate, I don’t know what will. Whether he wins that award or not, I know one thing for sure: If the Hurricanes are dancing in March, it will be because of the tremendous job that Haith has done.

Darren Grossman can be contacted at d.grossman@umiami.edu.