After a disappointing 21-15 season, a 79-64 defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the NIT Tournament and the sudden resignation of former coach Frank Haith this past April, the future looked questionable for the Hurricanes men’s basketball team.
Enter Jim Larranaga.
The Hurricanes look to start the 2011-2012 season off the right way with new head coach Larranaga at the helm. Larranaga takes over the Hurricanes after a 14 year career at George Mason University, where he compiled a record of 273-164. He brings to the Hurricanes a slew of post-season experience, leading the Patriots to five NCAA Tournaments in his tenure, including a run to the Final Four back in 2006.
“I am very excited to be here,” Larranaga said. “It didn’t take me long to feel like a part of the program when Malcolm Grant tried to pronounce my last name correctly.”
Larranaga takes over a program that under Haith had become 43-69 in the ACC over the past seven seasons. It’s a program that, amongst its struggles to compete with the top-tier teams in the ACC, have also struggled to consistently draw in students and fans to attend games. Larranaga acknowledged that it would be a challenge, but it’s something he is accustomed to and is looking forward to fixing it.
“Our challenge is going to be to build a program that can sustain success over an extended period of time, so that everyone in this community is going to be dying to get a ticket to watch us play,” he said. “You may say ‘That ain’t happening here.’ But I’ve heard all that before.”
Miami certainly has talent on the roster. Led by guards Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, who are both capable of making a shot from outside or driving down the lane, when used correctly, can make it difficult for opposing defenses to counter against. Then there is Reggie Johnson, the dominant center who, after contemplating declaring for the NBA Draft, has decided to return for his junior season.
Though many of these players were previously recruited by Haith, so far they seem convinced by Larranaga’s philosophy and game plan.
“Coach Larranaga’s track record speaks for itself and I’m really looking forward to playing for him,” said senior DeQuan Jones.
The coaches already feel that the talent is in place for the Hurricanes. The challenge is going to be utilizing it in the right way to improve upon a ninth place finish in the ACC and hopefully propel this squad to their first NCAA Tournament since the 2007-2008 season.
“I would not have left [George Mason] if we did not feel that we had that we have that caliber of talent already here at the U,” Larranaga said. “That we had the capabilities of challenging the very best teams, not only in the ACC, but in the entire country.”