Monday, April 25, 2011

Miami Hires Jim Larranaga

I wanted to get my thoughts out on the Miami hiring of Jim Larranaga, which actually happened three days ago, before the weekend. I'm a little torn on this one, mainly because I struggled to understand why Larranaga wanted the job. Larranaga has really built up the George Mason program since their Final Four run, and he's put a deep team together ready for a run in 2011-12. They were the best team in the Colonial over the length of the 2010-11 season, and with four starters returning I picked them to win the CAA again, and to earn a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I picked Miami to finish fifth in the ACC, and to sneak into the NCAA Tournament with an 11 seed.

If Larranaga's goal was to work his way up the coaching ranks, this wouldn't be the right job. Miami has not been a job that has launched coaching careers, simply because it's difficult to win there. The basketball program doesn't get a lot of support relative to other ACC teams, and so they really have no shot of ever competing for a conference title. With no history of basketball success, it's just hard to convince top recruits to come there. But I don't think Larranaga is looking to work his way up the coaching rank. He's already 61 years old, and this will probably be his last head coaching job. I think Miami will simply be a more comfortable job - he will make more money, he'll have nicer equipment and more money to work with, more staff to do his work, etc. He should improve Miami, and more likely than not they will make the NCAA Tournament in 2012. Though I wouldn't expect any ACC title runs.

For George Mason, the good news is that the players are in place and the program will be an attractive location for young coaches. The bad news is that Larranaga doesn't have a clear protege as far as I can tell, and so most likely they're going to be hiring a coach from another program and hoping that he can keep the train on the tracks. Larranaga set this team up for a nice run in 2011-12, and they can't allow any of those players to leave.

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