Here are some of my thoughts and observations following the hiring of Jim Larranaga to coach Miami’s basketball team:
- It’s an absolute coup for Miami. New athletic director Shawn Eichorst has to be ecstatic about being able to land a coach that took a program with fewer resources than Miami to a Final Four. It also gets Eichorst’s career off to a great start as his first hire seems to be getting rave reviews from the majority of UM fans. A hiring of a lesser-known candidate, such as Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Rob Jeter, who was reportedly a candidate, could have worked out in the long run, but wouldn’tve brought the buzz that this hire has to the University of Miami basketball program.
- Miami should make the NCAA Tournament if Reggie Johnson comes back. Johnson has declared for the NBA Draft, but hasn’t hired an agent. Most draft projections have him being drafted in the second round or not at all, and it’s possible he just declared to get some work in the NBA pre-draft camps. But if he’s back, Miami’s got a veteran roster and probably a better coaching staff than it had before-both of which signal that UM is ready to take the next step and become a tournament team.
- The move is a little perplexing from Larranaga’s perspective. It’s entirely possible he loves the area, and feels that the ACC is that much of a step up. But he’s actually leaving a program that lately has been more successful than Miami, that has more fans than UM, and puts him under less pressure. Further, if he were looking to leave, why deny the coaching vacancy at his alma mater, Providence? It’s just interesting in the sense that if he were looking to leave, why not send the feelers out earlier and maybe latch on to a better position such as Missouri?
- The hiring continues the wave of positive momentum for UM athletics. The last few years have seen a lot of negativity surround the department, but the hiring of Al Golden as head football coach has brought new enthusiasm and life back to that program, and this hire looks to have done the same. Combine those two hires with the Hurricane baseball team’s revival, and things are looking up for the athletic department. It’s also big for the department that it was able to part ways with Frank Haith without paying any of a potential buyout, which is something it would have had to have done had it fired Haith with time remaining on his contract.
- The move could also place Miami basketball a little bit higher up in the eyes of many, including potential recruits. North Carolina State sought a big-name coach and instead hired former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried. Georgia Tech hired Dayton’s Brian Gregory. Neither have the sizzle that this hire does (though both could end up being great hires given that both have had past success including leading their teams to the NCAA Tournament, it’s just that the initial hype factor isn’t as great as it is with Larranaga), and that’s interesting that Miami was able to pull that off given that those two schools have more passionate fan bases than Miami and have greater basketball tradition as well. It also could be that Larranaga simply decided after those hirings were made to leave, or that those schools didn’t contact him because they assumed he’d say no or didn’t want him. Either way, it’s a great break for a Miami basketball program that needd all the breaks it can get to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference with some of the more tradition-rich schools, many of which have bigger budgets than Miami does.
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