Tag:George Mason
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. 

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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
Posted on: March 19, 2011 8:13 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2011 9:14 pm

Mid-major spotlight shining on state of Virginia

darien brothers is playing in his hometown

Posted by Eric Angevine

Here we are with three days of NCAA tournament action in the books, and three teams from the Commonwealth of Virginia are still alive. Not Virginia or Virginia Tech, either. Those ACC power schools weren't invited. But George Mason, from the D.C. suburb of Fairfax, is still alive after beating Villanova. Two of the teams still in it are from the same city. The Richmond Spiders and Virginia Commonwealth Rams both call the central Virginia city home. Old Dominion, which was narrowly defeated by Butler, is yet another mid-major powerhouse from the same state.

Much of this bounty has to do with the Colonial Athletic Association, which operates out of a headquarters building in Richmond, overseeing a 12-team basketball conference that has five members from within the state borders. All three of the CAA teams that made the dance came from that handful. Richmond, on the other hand, is in the burgeoning A-10, though the tony private school, formerly a basketball member of the Colonial, still plays FCS football in the CAA.

All four NCAA tourney programs have developed into regular dancers by finding the diamond in the rough -- which any team can really do -- and polishing them to high shine, which few programs can. Case in point would be Richmond's Kevin Anderson, who was profiled in the Richmond Times-Dispatch recently.

The Spiders signed Kevin Anderson, their superb senior point guard, in the spring of Anderson's senior year in high school.

Players who sign in the spring usually are afterthoughts, given scholarships because a more sought-after recruit fell through. Anderson, who is just 6-feet tall, really wasn't even on anyone's backup list.

"I don't know if his size is what scared people away," said UR coach Chris Mooney. "I guess so. But his intelligence on the floor and ability to make shots is so incredibly impressive. We knew right away we had someone very special.

"It's very rare to get a 2,000-point scorer in the late signing period."

You'd think that keeping kids at home might play more of a role in that kind of success. It definitely has its place, but Anderson came from Atlanta, GA, and only his teammates Darien Brothers (No. 3, above) and Justin Harper are from Richmond, let alone the state of Virginia. Chris Mooney puts in the legwork to keep UR on top.

VCU has four locals, and Mason has two, including second round hero Luke Hancock, who hails from Roanoke. That city, in the southwest corner of the state, is prime Virginia Tech recruiting territory. Just goes to show that a hustling mid-major coach can get what he needs, no matter who he's up against.

Richmond is already in the Sweet 16 after beating Morehead State on Saturday afternoon, and VCU and Mason have both defeated Big East also-rans to advance to the third round of play. VCU even had to play in the first round just to get this far.

If you're a D-I prospect, and the big boys aren't paying enough attention to you, don't fret. If you can get a good look from someone in the nation's 10th state, odds are you'll have a very productive career that will take you where you wanted to go in the first place.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 18, 2011 5:33 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 5:42 pm

Video: The frenetic ending to George Mason-'Nova

Posted by Matt Norlander

Even if there haven't been exciting upsets early today, like what we saw yesterday (part of that is a lack of 11-6, 12-5 and 13-4 games), we've still had a couple of edge-of-your-couch endings. Afternoon, weekday tournament basketball is just the best, isn't it?

One of the big story lines heading into the weekend: George Mason is back in the second round for the first time since its Final Four run in 2006. The Patriots came from behind to take out No. 9 Villanova and win, 61-57. Exclusive CBSSports.com video below shows the final frames of the Patriots' rally, which was capped off with a Luke Hancock, go-ahead 3, then an emphatic Mike Morrison slam just before time expired.

Let me remind you: Mason was the higher-seeded team and is certainly a better one than Villanova. Villanova's season started with a 16-1 record. It ends at 21-12 and out in the first round. But no matter: the George Mason will, for a long, long time, elicit similar notions and feelings that Gonzaga and Butler do.

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 2:16 pm

VCU's D stops Mason's streak at 16 in CAA semis

Richmond, Va. -- The VCU Rams (23-10, 14-6) used tough defense and hot three-point shooting to end George Mason’s (26-6, 16-3) 16-game winning streak and secure their own entry into the CAA championship game, which will be played Jamie Skeen came up huge to get VCU into the CAA final.Monday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2. Playing in front of a vocal hometown contingent in the Richmond Coliseum, Shaka Smart’s team controlled the game from the tip, never letting up on second-chance shots, runouts for easy points, and, most of all, three point baskets. The Rams won 79-63.

Wake Forest transfer Jamie Skeen (right) carried the load for the red-hot Rams, who came into the game as the league’s #4 team, needing the auto-bid to ensure their participation in the NCAA tournament. Skeen paced the team with 21 points, going 4-6 from deep, and junior swingman Bradford Burgess chipped in 16 to go with 12 boards to push the Rams back to the Colonial's final game, which they last reached in 2009.

While the VCU offense was effective, it was the defense that won the game for the suddenly surging Rams. Full-court pressure forced the Patriots to throw long passes to advance the ball past midcourt, which were often off-target and out of bounds, or picked off and run back for quick points by the Rams. When Mason tried to run, Virginia Commonwealth consistently beat them back on defense.

The Rams lost to Mason on February 15 in the only previous meeting of the two teams this season. The loss was part of a four-game conference losing streak that helped put VCU in tough territory for an NCAA bid.

The Rams now await the result of the second semifinal, which pits 2-seed Old Dominion against No. 3 Hofstra.

CAA tourney bracket

Posted by Eric Angevine

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 1:47 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 1:00 pm

Conference tourney preview: The CAA

The CAA always seems like a league on the verge of something big. George Mason (16-2), Old Dominion (14-4) and Virginia Commonwealth (12-6) have each pulled major upsets in the Big Dance over the past decade, and this season, they’re joined in the league’s top four by Hofstra (14-4). Being in the top four is important. Those are the programs that get a first round bye in the CAA tournament, which commences on Friday. Mike Litos, who authored a book about George Mason’s run to the Final Four in 2006, has an immutable truism he applies to CAA teams: “You don’t want to play on Friday”.

Charles Jenkins can take Hofstra to new heightsThe CAA tournament is always held at the Richmond Coliseum, dead in the middle of the state of Virginia. Five of the league’s 12 teams are from the surrounding area. Since 2000, only UNC-Wilmington has inserted itself into the round-robin of GMU, ODU and VCU when it comes to making the Big Dance.

Looking at this year’s top four finishers, George Mason has been the most complete team, while Old Dominion relies heavily on defense and the massive inside presence of Frank Hassell. VCU is very athletic and plays a high-pressure style that can throw opponents for a loop. Perhaps the most intriguing is Hofstra, which has come on like gangbusters under first-year head coach Mo Cassara, thanks to the stellar play of Charles Jenkins (right). Jenkins is so good, he’s already had his number retired at Hofstra.

Fans of league teams are calling for three CAA teams to make the Big Dance. Odds are, if the selection committee lets that happen, they’d get good-to-great games out of each team they let in. The CAA gets more televised Bracket Buster games than any other conference, and tends to win those high-profile matchups. League teams have also made a habit of beating the big boys anywhere at any time. Even fifth-place Drexel took down Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center this season.

Perhaps the time is ripe for a three-bid Colonial.

CAA tourney brackets


Title game: Monday, March 7, ESPN


  1. Charles Jenkins, Hofstra
  2. Cam Long & Ryan Pearson, George Mason
  3. Frank Hassell, Old Dominion

Conference RPI:

KenPom.com rating: 13

Sagarin rating: 11

NCAA Tournament Locks:
Old Dominion, George Mason (8 seeds in the latest Palm predictions)

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Drexel


Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

George Mason: 2008 (68-50 loss to Notre Dame)

Old Dominion: 2010 (51-50 win over Notre Dame, 76-68 loss to Baylor in 2<sup>nd</sup> round)

Hofstra: 2001* (61-48 loss to UCLA)

Virginia Commonwealth: 2009 (65-64 loss to UCLA)

Drexel: 1996* (75-63 win over Memphis, 69-58 loss to Syracuse in 2<sup>nd</sup> round)

James Madison: 1994 (64-62 loss to Florida)

Delaware: 1999* (62-52 loss to Tennessee)

UNC-Wilmington: 2006 (88-85 OT loss to George Washington)

Georgia State: 2001** (50-49 OT win over Wisconsin, 79-60 loss to Maryland)

Northeastern: 2001* (101-66 loss to North Carolina)

William & Mary: N/A

Towson: 1991*** (97-86 loss to Ohio State)

*member of America East

**member of Atlantic Sun

***member of East Coast Conference


Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine


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Posted on: February 25, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: February 25, 2011 5:03 pm

Mid-major royalty fighting to crash the Dance

Memphis and other top mid-majors must fight to make the dance this season

Posted by Eric Angevine

One thing about experience - it tends to tamp down panic when things aren't going smoothly.

Bear witness to the late-season recoveries of some of the most well-known mid-major programs in the country. Butler didn't play last night, but the recent 6-game win streak they've built in the Horizon League puts them in a tie for first place following Milwaukee's win over Cleveland State last night. It's a far cry from last season's total domination of domestic competition, but the result could very well be the same - another Horizon championship for Butler.

In similar fashion, another group of Bulldogs -- this one from Spokane -- hung around all season to forge a late-February tie for a title that once seemed out of reach. Gonzaga took advantage of St. Mary's defensive slide last night, claiming an overtime win in Moraga to even the slate against the Gaels. With two games left, either contender could end up with the No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament, and an inside track to the NCAAs.

Memphis, despite uncharacteristic losses to SMU, Marshall, Tulsa and (gulp) Rice, is hanging in with UAB and Southern Miss on the C-USA leaderboard.

George Mason lost to Wofford in the non-conference season, then dropped their first two CAA games to title contenders Old Dominion and Hofstra before tearing off the most impressive winning streak in the country over the past two months. Jim Larranaga knows from hope and resilience.

Xavier had a brutal stretch of injuries that left them all but dead in the water following non-conference play, but there they are at 12-1, ready for another Big Dance.

It's not just the big names, either. Some small-conference teams with more recent success stories are clawing their way toward the postseason as well.

Murray State, authors of an upset of Vanderbilt in last year's tourney, overcame Kenneth Faried -- the nation's career rebounding leader -- to stay atop the OVC by a slim margin. Todd Bozeman's Morgan State Bears are just 1/2 game back of Bethune-Cookman with three games left. The Vermont Catamounts, who always seem to be lurking in the America East, have come out of that conference's annual scrum with an eye on the Dance yet again. Princeton, after yielding position to Cornell for a few seasons, is back in the hunt for the Ivy title this year.

All of these teams show a poise born of familiarity. They've lived the hoary old cliche: "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon" and they know through some sort of institutional memory that transcends individual players and coaches, that the prize will still be there at the end of the season if they stay the course.

This is one of the most fun weeks in college basketball outside of actual tournament play. By this time next week, we'll know if some of these comeback stories paid off in the race to the finish line. It might not be as easy for these teams as it has been in seasons past, and at-large considerations are all but invisible, but it's telling that we can't rule any of them out as of today.

Photo: US Presswire

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