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: April 28, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 3:34 pm

Bishop Daniels sticks with UM

Posted by Jeff Borzello

The college basketball season is still months away, but new Miami (Fl.) head coach Jim Larranaga picked up his first victory Thursday morning.

Top-150 recruit Bishop Daniels, who had previously asked out of his letter of intent when Frank Haith left for Missouri, told Larranaga he was coming to Miami.


“I met with the coach yesterday and outside of basketball, coach L is a great person,” Daniels told CBSSports.com. “I believe that him and his staff can help me develop as a basketball player and man.”

Daniels, a 6-foot-2 combo guard from Word of God (N.C.), is a high-flying athlete who can finish above the rim but has also improved his point guard skills.

He is excited about the potential in South Beach next season.

“I can't predict how many wins we will have, but I know with coach L we definitely will be getting better,” Daniels said. “I really think we as a team will get it done next year."

Category: NCAAB
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
Posted on: April 15, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 2:18 pm

Horizon League coach to Miami?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Could a Horizon League coach end up making the leap to leading the Miami Hurricanes?

No, not that one. Brad Stevens would actually be taking a step down if he headed to Coral Gables. The man who's on the radar in pastel paradise is the one who actually won the Horizon League's regular-season championship this year, and skunked Stevens' team twice in the process. Had he done it one more time on March 8 in the Horizon tourney final, this year's national runner-up would not have even made the Big Dance, in all likelihood.

I'm talking about the head coach of the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers, who is a candidate for the Miami job, according to a tweet from the always-accurate Jeff Goodman. "Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter, according to sources, meeting with new Miami AD Shawn Eichorst tonight in Wisconsin," Goodman tweeted the evening of April 14.

Related links
Jeter's name might not be high on anyone's wish list, so why did he get the preliminary call? Because Miami's new AD is Shawn Eichorst, who got a chance to observe Jeter up close when he was deputy AD at Wisconsin. Jeter is a branch from the Bo Ryan coaching tree, so he more or less starts from a position of underrated efficiency just like his mentor.

Reviewing Jeter's work at UWM, it's tough to determine exactly what he'll bring to the job if he's offered the Miami position. Jeter's Panther teams haven't been particularly consistent at anything over the past few years, though defensive rebounding often pops up as a positive in looking at the numbers. Jeter had his best team in 2005-06, his first season at the school after Bruce Pearl left. That squad made the NCAA tournament, beat Oklahoma and lost to Florida in the second round. No UWM team since has made it back to the Big Dance. This season, Jeter's reward for winning the Horizon was automatic entry into the postseason NIT, where his team promptly lost to Northwestern by nine points.

None of that makes Jeter a bad coach. It's not easy gaining ground in the shadow of the mighty Butler Bulldogs, after all. But it will make Jeter a tough sell to the fan base, should he be offered the job. Then again, it can't be as tough a sell as one more year of Haith, which was an onerous proposition to most 'Cane fans. 

If you want recent ACC history to back up why this might work (based completely on unrelated circumstantial evidence, but still), look at former Wright State head coach Brad Brownell, who had a pretty sharp first season at Clemson.

Jeter was a candidate for the Bradley University job when it was open last month, but withdrew from consideration to stay at UWM. If Miami, and a familiar boss, come calling, he may find the combination too sweet to turn down.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: April 11, 2011 7:16 pm

Making the Leap: Miami's Johnson tests waters

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Miami lost its head coach last weekend; now, the Hurricanes have lost its most productive player.

Sophomore Reggie Johnson, a 6-foot-9 center, announced Monday he would be entering the NBA draft. Johnson will not hire an agent, leaving open the option of returning to Coral Gables for his junior season.

“The chance to play in the NBA is something that has been in my mind for a long time – since I was really young,” Johnson said. “Now the chance has presented itself so I can see where I stand. If it doesn’t feel right, I know I still have the opportunity to return to play college basketball.”

Johnson averaged 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds this past season, shooting 59.1 percent from the field.

NBA Draft

Depending on whom Miami hires as its new coach, the Hurricanes could have fielded a competitive team in the ACC next season with Johnson in the fold. Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott return in the backcourt, while Garrius Adams showed flashes on the wing. Florida transfer Kenny Kadji would have formed a solid inside duo with Johnson.

Without Johnson, the inside group will have to step up in a major way if Miami has plans to bang down low with the top of the league.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Miami, NBA draft
Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:48 am

Tough teams still battling in NIT's final eight

Posted by Eric Angevine

The NIT is an interesting beast. Conference champions who don't get auto-bids go there, as do power-conference teams who feel 'snubbed' by the NCAA selection committee. It's an interesting time to see which teams roll over and give up and which keep on fighting.

Of the notable snubs, a couple have shown that fight. Several haven't. Harvard went out in the first round, which is no shame, but the score was lamentable. A 71-54 loss at Oklahoma State put an early end to one of the finest seasons in Crimson history. Tommy Amaker is getting passing mention as a candidate for a job higher up the totem pole, so there's a lot of doubt surrounding the program at a time when the next step seems to be well within reach.

Last year's champ, Dayton, lost by ten at home to start the tourney. Fifth-seeded Nebraska managed just 49 points in a loss to Wichita State, and Coastal Carolina was rock-bottom in the first round, scoring just 44.  Virginia Tech made the second round as a No. 1 seed, then bowed in OT at home when Wichita State came calling.

Speaking of the Shockers, enough about the letdowns. Let's talk about which teams are setting up to make a trip to Madison Square Garden at the end of March.

Andrew Goudelock could shine at MSG, if he gets thereIn one regional final, 1-seed Alabama and 2-seed Miami meet up. Anthony Grant's Crimson Tide defeated Coastal Carolina and New Mexico to arrive at this juncture. The Hurricanes went through conference champions Florida Atlantic and Missouri State. Frank Haith had a strange, error-filled finish in the ACC tournament. Against Virginia, the mistakes evened out in his favor. Against North Carolina, the breaks went to the other team. The Tide are doubtless looking to prove that their rise in Grant's second season is a meaningful turnaround. Getting to MSG will show real progress on that front.

Next up are No. 1 Colorado and the MAC regular season champs, No. 7 Kent State. Colorado, which seemed poised to make the Big Dance in Tad Boyle's first season, are making up for the snub by cruising past Texas Southern and Cal. The Golden Flashes put the coda on No. 2 St. Mary's postseason collapse in the first round, then nipped Fairfield 72-68 to get one round away from New York City. The talent advantage here is all on the Buffs' side of the court, and Boyle is looking to make a positive statement as his team prepares for Pac-12 play next season.

Rather than sit at home and mope about missing the NCAA tourney again, the No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats have gone on a tear in the NIT. The purple warriors swamped Horizon champs Milwaukee and took down ACC also-ran Boston College to get to this point, where they'll meet No. 2 Washington State. Cougars star Klay Thompson scored 26 in the second round to knock out Oklahoma State, after WSU took care of Long Beach State in round one. It will be interesting to see if this matchup goes the way of veteran coach Bill Carmody or tips to up-and-coming Ken Bone.

The last quarterfinal matchup is very intriguing. In a matchup of mid-major toughs, No. 4 Wichita State will meet Bobby Cremins and No. 6 College of Charleston. The Shockers had an impressive road to this point, and could be favored to cut down some nets in MSG. They beat Nebraska and Virginia Tech -- two teams with fairly strong at-large resumes -- to get here. If there's an equalizer on the other side of the court, it's composed of two parts: Cremins' vast experience, and the seldom-seen play of Andrew Goudelock (right). The 6-foot-2 senior scored 39 in the first round to oust defending NIT champs Dayton, then joined in a more balanced effort to send Cleveland State packing. It's a shame only one of these teams can get to the Garden.

NIT games resume tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET, with Kent State at Colorado on ESPN.

CBS Sports NIT page

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com