Tag Archives: Jim Larranaga

Mid-Major Coaches Taking the Extension: Pros and Cons

Cinderella runs in the NCAA Tournament are no longer surprises to college basketball fans. The question no longer is will there be a Cinderella, but how many teams will try on the slipper in a given year. The deep run in the tournament not only brings attention to the school and its players, but the coach as well. With the high rate of turnover in college basketball, the NCAA Tournament has become a pseudo-audition of sorts for many coaches of mid-major programs.

It is an interesting concept. Many NBA scouts complain that GMs put too much stock into a three-weekend tournament when evaluating talent. Everyone is captivated by the NCAA Tournament, and given that the games are on a national stage, it makes sense as to why a talent evaluator could fall in love with a guy who gets hot at the right time and leads his team to the second or third weekend.

Take a guy like Gordon Hayward, for example. Hayward was smart because he realized that after leading Butler to their first National Championship appearance, and being the driving force behind that run even though Butler very much played with a team-basketball concept on both ends of the floor, his stock could not get any higher than it was at that point. Hayward is a fine player, and probably will become a solid rotation player in the league, but ask the Utah Jazz whether they would change their minds if they could do it over again and you’d likely get a pained look and a head nod.

Well, this is not a unique concept just to players. Coaches of mid-major programs are beginning to use the tournament as a spring board into the off-season, where a successful March can translate into major bargaining power with their current schools or an opportunity to move on to a more high-profile gig. The point is, guys who lead an underdog to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond may not necessarily leave a Naismith trophy, but they won’t leave empty handed.

It used to be that the mid-major coach was as good as gone once they led their team to the second weekend, but that paradigm took a big turn after the ’05-’06 season when Jim Larranaga chose to take a big extension at George Mason rather than bolting for one of the many higher profile programs that had expressed interest, including his alma mater Providence. Instead, Larranaga took a pay raise and a whole bunch of extra years on his contract and stayed put…

Well, until this past off-season, when he signed with Miami.

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Daily Dagger – 4/23

Del’s feeling under the weather, so I’ll take over the Daily Dagger for today. And with Jim Larranaga’s recent departure from George Mason to Miami, it’s only fitting that we dedicate the Dagger to his best team ever that reached the Final Four in 2006. We were at this classic and it was truly amazing. No one thought Mason could pull off the upset against Jim Calhoun and the top seed UConn Huskies. They proved everyone wrong and gave small schools everywhere hope that they could be a Cinderalla team one day too.

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Jim Larranaga to Miami

It’s official.

Former George Mason Head Basketball Coach, Jim Larranaga, is headed to The U.

This is fairly surprising on multiple levels. First of all, I think conventional wisdom around college basketball was that Larranaga was very comfortable at George Mason and really had no intention of leaving. After leading the Patriots to the Final Four in 2006, he was one of the most sought after coaches in the country–much like Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart were this year. He rebuffed offers from multiple major conference schools, including Providence, his alma mater. All of those offers presumably would have paid him more money than he was making at GMU even after getting a substantial raise. Now, five years later, he’s ready to move on.

The other surprising part here is that Miami is where Larranaga is choosing to jump. This is a basketball program that will always be in the shadow of the football team and hasn’t had much of a history of success. They couldn’t keep their previous coach, Frank Haith, in town despite his very, very mediocre  mildly successful run as their head man. They couldn’t entice Tommy Amaker away from Harvard. Now, they are getting a very well respected coach in Jim Larranaga who has gotten his mid-major program to the tournament consistently and has taken them deep. How much must they be paying this guy???

This move kind of reminds me of the Kendrick Perkins trade this season in the NBA. Apparently when Perk was traded to the Thunder, a host of other franchises were upset that they didn’t even know he was available and admitted that they would have given up more to get him. How must some of these other programs who have been in a coaching search this offseason feel? The ADs at NC State, Georgia Tech, Missouri, and Tennessee must have spit out their coffee this morning reading this.

“What!?! Larranaga was available? And we’re stuck with Mike Gottfried? Wait, hold on. That can’t be right. Is that a typo? Seriously, the room is spinning right now. Miami? Is the NCAA investigating this? If I get fired because of this I will NOT be happy.”

Things just got a little more interesting in the ACC for the next few years. Many people–myself included–assumed that Miami was doomed for a desperation hire after leaving the position vacant for this long. Well, if that was the case, this is just about the best desperation hire I’ve seen in quite some time.

Quick reactions from fellow ACC competitors: here, here, and here.

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