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Larranaga Jumps Into Shark-Infested Waters

by - Published April 25, 2011 in Full Court Sprints


Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

  1. Miami finally got its man in hiring George Mason coach Jim Larranaga to become the Hurricanes’ next coach, according to the Associated Press. In Larranaga, the Hurricanes get a coach with a Final Four pedigree, and that’s coming out of the Colonial Athletic Conference. The Colonials’ coach has family roots in Florida, and the opportunity was particularly alluring, even though George Mason is a perennial NCAA Tournament contender in the CAA.
  2. IUPUI hired its new coach from within in the program, elevating associate coach Todd Howard to the top spot, according to the Associated Press. Former head coach Ron Hunter left the program to coach Georgia State.
  3. It’s a little hard to figure what Hollis Thompson is thinking, but the sophomore Hoya announced he will enter the NBA Draft without an agent, according to the Associated Press. Thompson averaged 8.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this past season — not exactly attention-grabbing stats.
  4. As much as Texas faithful don’t want to hear it, the decisions of Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Jordan Hamilton make a little more sense. All three players will go through the NBA Draft process, according to ESPN’s Dana O’Neil. However, only Hamilton has immediate plans to sign with an agent, though Thompson figures to be a possible lottery pick.
  5. Former Wake Forest sophomore guard Ari Stewart is heading to the West Coast to play for USC and coach Kevin O’Neill, according to Pedro Moura for ESPN Los Angeles.com.
  6. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, you just won the 2011 national championship. Where are you going next? The weed man? Not a great idea. Police arrested the sophomore swingman April 21 and charged him with marijuana possession, according to the Associated Press.
  7. Redemption remains a possibility for Coombs-McDaniel, much like it is for BYU’s Brandon Davies, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. Davies had possibly the most noteworthy sex of any college athlete this year when the news broke in early March that the Cougars would suspend their best big man for violating the university’s honor code, which prohibits premarital sex. However, Davies is confident that he’ll complete the necessary penance to return to campus as a BYU student-athlete, then return to the court as a solid post player for the Cougars.


The Miami coaching gig is a death trap.

It’s not that the Hurricanes will never succeed, and it’s not that a talented coach can’t attract some talented players to Coral Gables. The problem is that it will be almost always impossible to get fans in the stands, which is one of the primary concerns of athletic departments.

And without a naturally enthusiastic fan base, Miami’s coach must produce fantastic seasons on a regular basis. For new coach Jim Larranaga, that’s a tall order.

The Hurricanes have some talent heading into next season, especially if Reggie Johnson returns to school instead of remaining in the NBA Draft. He would join Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott in south Florida. Unfortunately for Larranaga and the ‘Canes, most people in south Florida are more interested in other teams and activities. The city’s mercurial fan base has the Miami Heat as their primary object of affection on the hardwood. Among the Coral Gables community and student body, ‘Canes football will always be the No. 1 sport on campus.

That leaves Larranaga’s crew fighting for the No. 3 spot in town with other sports teams, including the Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers and Miami Dolphins — NFL lockout permitting. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the allure of the beach and notorious night life. Unless Miami can knock off North Carolina and Duke on an annual basis, getting fans to show up at the BankUnited Center will be a very tough task.

The Hurricanes’ 7,200-seat arena would need about 50 percent of all Miami undergrads present and accounted for just to fill three-quarters of the seats. Larranaga would need to attract some serious talent to generate enough buzz to fill the rest of the arena. And that wasn’t his M.O. at George Mason, nor will ACC rivals like Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Gary Williams and Leonard Hamilton make it easy for him to get the best kids to play at Miami. Within the state of Florida, the Gators have the best shot at recruiting local kids, with Florida State’s Hamilton not far behind.

Despite that shark-infested climate, Miami remains an ACC team with ACC expectations. That means the Hurricanes need to sell out the big games, finish in the top third every now and then, and make a run to at least the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament when talented recruiting classes come through town. Ask Paul Hewitt and Al Skinner how that goes.

Good luck to Larranaga. This won’t be a vacation.

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