Tag:Jim Larranaga
Posted on: May 9, 2011 9:21 am
Edited on: May 9, 2011 9:49 am

Will George Mason ever play on Larranaga Court?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Wake up, hoops junkies. It's a long time until our season starts up again, but our fellow basketball fanatics can always be counted on to find interesting ways to keep our thoughts on hoops all summer long.

One such project that just started this May is Halcyon Hoops, the latest brainchild of writer Corey Schmidt. Just three posts into this new joint, Corey has already hit on an interesting question, following on the heels of Gary Williams' retirement at Maryland. To wit, "what does it take for a coach to get a court named after him?"

It varies more than you'd think. Length of tenure would be the first thing most of us would guess, and that holds true for the likes of Jim Phelan, who had the court named for him after a half-century at Mount St. Mary's. The median tenure for a coach with a court named after him is right around 20 years, right where I would have pegged it if I had to guess. But if that's the average, there must be several below that line, right?

Right. Of the 22 coaches Schmidt looked at, 12 fell below the mark. Billy Tubbs had seven years at Lamar, in a most unusual fashion: four years in the 1970s as he began his career, and then three more in the new millennium as he wound it down. The absolute shortest was Lefty Driesell's 5 1/3 seasons at Georgia State, which nevertheless earned him court-naming priveleges.

Here's Corey's full chart, which is a beautiful thing:

Coach's Court graphic courtesy of Halcyon Hoops
(Image courtesy of Halcyon Hoops. Don't credit me, I do not have these skills.)

The main question Halcyon Hoops aims to explore is this: will George Mason University ever name a floor after Jim Larranaga? 14 years falls short of the average, but that's obviously not the crux of the issue. If Larranaga were retiring instead of heading to Miami, he'd pretty much be a lock. Schmidt put it this way:

On merits alone, Larranaga would seem to fit the bill. He won games, had postseason success, and took the George Mason program to another level. However, the biggest challenge when evaluating whether to honor him with “Coach Larranaga Court” will be the way his tenure in Fairfax ended. The vast majority of coaches with courts bearing their names retired while still with that program. A few more years with the Patriots, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But right now, Coach Larranaga is a Hurricane. He left Geroge Mason for somewhere else, and in the present, that still stings just a bit.

Indeed. It's actually kind of hard to imagine how this might play out in Larranaga's favor. If time heals all wounds, and a sizable chunk of the school's alumni are behind the honor, it could happen, but that might also depend on what happens to the program now that he's gone. If Paul Hewitt stinks it up and the team falters, does that make Masonites more or less likely to want to pay homage to the man who took them to such heights? What if Hewitt wins a bunch of games? Do his accomplishments overshadow the man who will then look like he left to play in a sandbox in the middle of the team's heyday?

The fact is, Larranaga deserves recognition for making George Mason University a household name amongst the hoops-savvy. Let's be honest. Right now, more people could accurately identify Jim Larranaga and tell you why he's famous than could do the same for the school's namesake, semi-obscure founding father George Mason. Larranaga's legacy may not be an eponymous basketball court. Maybe it will be a scholarship fund or a conference room or something less visible that bears his name. It's worth noting that the only thing named after Joe Paterno at Penn State (so far) is a library. But Larranaga should be honored in some way, and it really should be something visible and meaningful, even if the sting has to fade a bit in the interim.

**Update** @GMUHoops makes a cogent point via Twitter: "A lot of people bring this up each year. Don't know if school would actually do it, they don't even retire player jerseys"

Photo: Halcyon Hoops
Posted on: May 8, 2011 2:06 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 6:25 pm

Miami and Xavier get key pieces back

Posted by Eric Angevine

Good news for two coaches - one who decided to stay at a high-quality mid-major and one who left for the ACC. Two of college basketball's top underclassmen are returning to school rather than stay in the NBA draft.

NBA Draft
Jim Larranaga, who took over the Hurricanes after leaving George Mason, will have an easier transition now that his star big man is back. "Great news Hurricane fans, Reggie Johnson will return next season." Larranaga reported via his Twitter account, @CanesCoachL.

Johnson, a 6-foot-10, 303-pound center from North Carolina, tested the draft waters after just two seasons in Coral Gables. While he was not a household name by any means, his averages of 11.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game were nothing to sneeze at. His return will give Larranaga a strong inside presence to build around as the sexagenarian coach attempts to make Miami a contender in the conference of North Carolina and Duke.

A more well-known player will return to Xavier this season, as well. Tu Holloway, the 6-foot junior who scored nearly 20 points per game to go with 5.4 assists per, will withdraw from the draft and play his senior season for Chris Mack. Holloway's return will put Xavier back in the hunt for the A-10 title in the upcoming season, alongside a Temple team that gets Ramone Moore back for one more go-around.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 9:40 am
Edited on: May 2, 2011 3:08 pm

Hewitt must win now to please Mason fans

Will this be a

Posted by Eric Angevine

I'll tell you what I think of George Mason's hire of deposed former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt in a minute. First, I want to take a look at how this news has hit the internet (hint: not as hard as the news of Osama bin Ladin's death).

John Feinstein at the Washington Post offered this assessment:

Hewitt is never going to become the kind of cult figure Larranaga became at GMU because his personality is entirely different from Larranaga’s. He’s not going to high-five cheerleaders during player introductions or come up with sayings about being Kryptonite or being from the CAA — Connecticut Assassins Association.

That’s not him. But he’s a respected leader in the coaching community — a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches board of directors — and someone who will have the instant respect of his new players because of the players he’s sent to the NBA (among them Chris Bosh) and because of his demeanor. Hewitt will never be as cuddly as Larranaga, but he will be well-liked.

That NBA connection is going to be huge for some players. I'd be very surprised if Hewitt doesn't have some of those former Tech stars drop by Fairfax to give pep talks and fire up the fan base. Hewitt may not have the personal magnetism Larranaga exudes, but knowing guys who appear on the front of cereal boxes will go a long ways toward ameliorating that deficiency.

Kevin Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner thinks Hewitt's experience may be cut to fit the situation:

At George Mason, Hewitt inherits a loaded team that will be favored to win the conference and is likely to be ranked in the preseason top 25. Pressure will be on from the start. Our guess here is that George Mason found the man best equipped to deal with it and take the Patriots onward -- and perhaps even upward.

Fan reaction has been rather more divided. A thread titled "Welcome Coach Hewitt!" at CAAZone.com offers a wide range of opinions:

Just the guy I had hoped we would land....dude can flat out recruit! - dawgs99

I love what Coach L did for our program, but I feel like we just traded in an older used car for a much younger model with better gas mileage. It's a great day to be a Patriot! - TomGMU

Terrible coach (being realized by NBA Scouts who notice how raw the bigs are and underutilized good guards are) - DontYouMeanACC

I feel like this is a pretty good hire, but not a great hire. Like (Tom O'Connor) was swinging to get on base and not strike out, but had no intention of trying to knock it over the fence. - Hugh Akston

My opinion of the hire falls in that 'wait and see' middle ground. Hewitt's record gives us plenty of positives and negatives to extrapolate from, but George Mason is not Siena (where Hewitt went 66-27 and led the Saints to the NCAA tournament), nor is it Georgia Tech (where Hewitt's best season was 9-7 in the ACC, the year he went to the NCAA title game). If anything, fans of the program must hope that Hewitt's mixture of experience garnered at the mid-major and BCS-team levels form a perfect storm at Mason.

We know Hewitt can recruit. He brought a parade of superstar athletes to Georgia Tech, but was never able to really match up with Duke or North Carolina. That's no crime, but a major red flag was appended to Hewitt's resume in 2008-9, when his 'Jackets fell to 2-14 in league play despite the presence of Gani Lawal, Alade Aminu and Iman Shumpert on that team. Last year's squad, though not nearly as loaded, lost to Kennesaw State (8-23 on the season) as well as severely depleted Siena (13-18) and Charlotte (10-20). Kennesaw fired coach Tony Ingle at the end of the season, and the Saints and 49ers outfoxed Hewitt under first-year head coaches.

Related links
Something about this hire reminds me of St. John's decision to hire Steve Lavin last season. The former UCLA head coach had a reputation as a super-smooth recruiter who wasn't the sharpest Xs and Os guy. So what made his first season in New York a success? In my opinion, it was Lavin's decision to tacitly admit his shortcomings, leading to the hire of Gene Keady as an assistant coach. If Lavin is the face and Keady the brains at SJU, it's working. Perhaps Paul Hewitt can find a similar, if cheaper and more low-profile, complementary piece for himself.

Hewitt won't have the luxury of a rebuilding job next season. He is expected to win the CAA and compete for a top-25 national ranking with the loaded team Larranaga left behind. As such, my tempered 'wait and see' is not particularly far-sighted. Mason fans will know what they got by this time next season. Only then will they know if this was a good move.

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: April 26, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 10:02 am

Larranaga left George Mason at the right time

Posted by Eric Angevine

When a coach departs from a job he's held for a good while, the reactions range from resignation to disbelief to outright anger in the fan base he leaves behind. It resembles nothing so much as the breakup of a long-term romantic relationship. Some folks bad-mouth the ex, more out of hurt than true anger. Others take the more grown-up approach of wishing the other well, staying in touch, and moving on with their lives.

T.J. Doyle, of SBNation DC, takes the long view of the dissolution of the Masonnaga relationship (hm, that portmanteau thing doesn't work as well for institutes of higher learning and coaches as it does for celebrity couples), counseling both parties to enjoy newfound love.
Honestly, everybody wins in the long run. Larranaga gets to head off to Miami, seemingly happy about his choice to lead the Hurricanes' basketball program out of ACC obscurity. George Mason gets to hire an up-and-coming young coach to lead a team entering next season with high expectations (rightfully so). The ending of this saga is a win-win for all involved.
Teej makes an excellent point here. Mason Nation will miss Larranaga, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and the school is currently a pretty good catch, thanks largely to the growth experienced in that previous long-term relationship (yes, this metaphor is getting a bit creepy; it ends here).

In that respect, Larranaga may have actually done GMU a favor. The job should attract the cream of the crop of young, able assistant coaches - the types of guys who turn out to be Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart - rather than a tired old retread or unproven tyro. Thanks to Larranaga and Smart, the CAA enjoys a national profile that blows any other non-power-conference out of the water right now. Throw in ODU's Blaine Taylor, Hofstra's Mo Cassara, Bruiser Flint at Drexel and the new blood at Towson and Georgia State, and you're looking at a conference that boasts a very impressive collection of coaching talent. Mason has a perfect opportunity to transition smoothly from Larranaga right now, an opportunity that might not have been so tangible had they waited for the 61-year-old coach to run out of gas and retire.

There are brilliant assistants biding their time in towns like Columbus, Lawrence, Lexington and Durham, waiting for a perfect gig like this one to come along. 

Related links
Obviously, a younger coach might view the Mason job as a stepping-stone. He might stay three or four years and then jump to the Big Ten, or, god forbid, the SEC. Big deal. VCU made it to the Final Four by making intelligent hiring decisions and building on the energy of each short-term fling (sorry, I said I was going to stop). On the other hand, they may get lucky and find a dedicated program-builder like Taylor (ten years and counting at ODU) or get in on the ground floor with the next Larranaga (he was 47 when he took over in Fairfax). The possibilities are as enticing as they'll ever be right now.

Mason wouldn't be a title-winning, Final Four banner-flying, national reputation-having program if Larranaga hadn't made it so over the past 14 years. Nobody can knock that result, no matter how much they wanted him to stay. Mason fans need to wish him well, thank him for his service, and maybe give him a nice set of golf clubs as a parting gift. Then they need to throw themselves enthusiastically into celebrating the promise of springtime renewal under new leadership.

This is a scenario in which everyone can end up happy.

Photo: US Presswire
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 22, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 12:36 pm

Larranaga's age being overplayed? Here's why not

Posted by Matt Norlander

Finding it funny that after we had all this discussion about the hotness of young coaches, an elder statesmen taking on a job unexpectedly is getting the offseason conversation going. Chris Mooney and Shaka Smart spurned major-conference schools to stay at Richmond and VCU. Relatively young Frank Martin never even got a phone call, supposedly, from Miami, a city he considers home.

And here's Jim Larranaga pulling the rug out from under everyone.

The criticism over Larranaga's hire at Miami was met with just as much blowback to said criticism within an hour of it being reported as a done deal. If you ask me, his age doesn't reflect or affect his ability to coach. Some think this situation puts Larranaga in a transition stage toward retirement. I can buy that. I can also buy the notion, which many have, that he'll do just fine at Miami, which has floated around the 20-win mark for the past four seasons, yet has been seen (rightfully) as a bottom-tier ACC gig.

Let that debate continue on for the next week, month and even year, seeing what Larranaga can do in Coral Gables, and how his job compares to what George Mason does in 2011-12. Mason is considered the CAA favorite heading into next season. Miami is not expected to make the NCAA tournament.

Regardless, here's what's not arguable: Larranaga's hire is of a rare variety because of his age. He's 61 years old, and by my cursory research, only Mike Montgomery can claim to be in Larranaga's company. The Cal coach was hired three years ago at the same, tender age. Other than these two men, no one in the past decade has been hired at a major-conference school beyond the age of 60.

The chatter increases because he's a coaching outlier. It's not about his ability to succeed, it's just the shock and awe of the move at this time of his life, compounded by his track record at the school he's leaving in contrast with the one he's going to. There isn't a deep data pool or frame of reference to glean from, so some questions and head-scratching accompanies the news. No matter conference status, really, getting a head-coaching gig in your seventh decade on the planet is not all that common.

Lon Kruger comes close to Larranaga Territory. He recently relocated from Las Vegas to Oklahoma at the age of 58. Oliver Purnell dropped out on Clemson to head to DePaul (a move that has its parallels with what Larranaga's done) last year, when he was 56. I know John Beilein feels like a grandpa, but he was just 55 when Michigan brought him on back in 2008. Even Fran Dunphy, who has that quiet, elderly tone and aura to him, was hired by Temple when he was 57, practically a whippersnapper!

How about this one: Bob Knight was younger than Larranaga when Texas Tech brought on the General in 2001. Now you're seeing why, fair or not, his age is a water-cooler topic. (And I can't believe Knight's only 70.

Money aside, Mason is a better job than Miami. But this appears to be about the money and a disintegrating relationship between Larranaga and his athletic director. No, there's no reason Larranaga can't continue to win at a high clip, even in the more-competitive ACC. (The CAA was certainly closer in quality to the ACC in recent years, though, which also helps this theory.) He's a good-to-great coach; a coach that redefined what mid-majors can do when he took the Patriots to the Final Four in 2006.

At 61, Larranaga gets a significant raise, an improvement in temperature and can prepare for his life at Del Boca Vista. I can only hope he's calling up doubters, newly fellow ACC coaches and the like and channeling his inner Frank Costanza.

This ... is Jim Larranaga. You think you can keep us out of Florida? We're moving in, lock, stock and barrel. We're going to be in the pool; we're going to be in the clubhouse; we're going to be all over that shuffleboard basketball court. And I dare you to keep me out!

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 22, 2011 9:28 am
Edited on: April 22, 2011 11:25 am

Coach Speak: Larranaga to Miami?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Unless Jim Larranaga really likes golf, there's no way he should take the Miami job. Today's news seems to indicate that Larranaga will move to Coral Gables, however.

Over the past couple of days, we've seen conflicting reports coming from Fairfax, VA and Miami, FL. Trying to follow the developments has given the poor editor of the George Mason Basketball Blog whiplash.

Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com just posted this interesting little tidbid about Coach Larranaga:
"George Mason's Jim Larranaga has had serious discussions with Miami officials about the ACC school's coaching vacancy, multiple sources told CBSSports.com on Thursday. Whether Larranaga is leveraging for a better deal from George Mason or on the verge of actually moving to Miami is unclear, both sources said. But the talks are advanced and ongoing, and the 61-year-old New York native has developed into Miami's top target."
More to come as this story develops. Hopefully it's just some smoke and perhaps Larranaga is trying to get another raise from George Mason. Keep in mind that Larranaga is widely viewed as the ambassador of the CAA (and mid-majors for that matter) and VCU's Shaka Smart is set to make about $500K more per year in his base salary.

Update: Steven Goff of the Post writes that George Mason granted Miami permission to talk to Jim Larranaga.

Update: According to 106.7 The Fan this afternoon some of the assistant coaches are looking for new jobs. Losing a guy like Chris Caputo would be a huge loss.

Update: Len Robbins from the NY Post reported that Coach L called a meeting to address the team tonight. Hard to think this would be for anything other than his departure from Fairfax.

Now Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports has stated there was so such meeting at George Mason. Wow.
It's tough to see why Larranaga would take the job, honestly, but it appears to be a reality. No official announcement has come out yet, and we've seen these things fall through at the last minute in other cases (Remember Billy Donovan to Orlando? Dana Altman to Arkansas?), but right now, the indication is that the 61-year-old coach will bolt.

It's easy to see why Miami wants him. He's been to the Final Four, He produces consistent winners, and he does it with integrity. Larranaga showed his priorities in the lead-up to the 2006 miracle season, when he suspended his best player, Tony Skinn, for punching Hofstra's Loren Stokes in the onions in a CAA semifinal loss. The one-game suspension held Skinn out of the 75-65 Big Dance upset of Michigan State that sparked the Patriots' epic run to the closing weekend. Not too many coaches would risk a huge loss to drive home a point to a kid who made a foolish mistake. It makes Larranaga seem like a guy who wouldn't be easily lured into a bad situation by mere money.

There's one other big reason this always seemed like a non-starter. Since 2006, the head coaching job at Providence College has opened up twice. Jim Larranaga played at PC from 1967-71, and seemed like the natural choice to take the job and return his alma mater to glory in the Big East, but each time he's let someone else take the job. If Larranaga doesn't want to return to his roots and rebuild, why on earth would he take a similarly difficult task in the ACC, far from his well-worn recruiting base?

The suggestion hinted at in the blog post above makes the most sense. Larranaga sees a hot young coach like Shaka Smart getting his just rewards, and he feels he deserves an honorarium. As the godfather of the CAA's growing national profile, he most certainly does, and there's no shame in using Miami's opening to jolt some money out of those who want to keep him happy in Fairfax.

According to the Washington Examiner, Larranaga has been in contract talks with GMU's AD since the end of the season. This flirtation with another job should have ACCelerated the process to keep Larranaga at GMU. There's still time, I suppose, but that time could end if an official announcement is made today.

Photo: US Presswire
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com