The news came as a bit of a shock to the Mason nation yesterday. I certainly didn’t see this coming, especially after Larranaga turned down the Providence job for the 2nd time. The move is a little puzzling to the college basketball community because the University of Miami isn’t exactly a better coaching job despite being an ACC opportunity. Larranaga is leaving behind a potential Top 30 team in next year’s Patriots and at 61 is taking on the task of rebuilding a struggling ACC program.
Almost every member of the seems to be scratching their head as to why now and why Miami. He’s had opportunities to coach in power conferences before at much more established programs. The Miami job is arguably the worst one in the ACC in terms of program support and fan attendance. Does he really care that much about newer facilities at this stage of his career? Perhaps the move is strictly about money.
This whole speaks to the George Mason administration. Gary Parrish said “it got nasty between Jim and athletic director Tom O’Connor at the end. Both egos played a role”. Larranaga has talked about resources before in his career and it was the reason he left Bowling Green for Fairfax back in 1997. He’s resources were being cut there and who knows if something like that is happening here. For instance where is the basketball practice facility the school talked about almost two and half years ago? I wouldn’t be surprised if Larranaga was promised things back in 2006 and then again in 2008 that didn’t quite materialize. There was a clause in his contract that stated the school would spend $150K a year to promote the of the program. Aside from a funny cartoon YouTube that went semi-viral I’d love to see how exactly that money was spent.
In the end it’s about getting paid. Larranaga is at the end of his career and just saw a 2nd year fellow CAA coach get $500K more in annual base salary then him after doing exactly what he did in 2006. It’s not about winning, he has done that already it’s about him doubling his salary when he has the opportunity. People will say he’s looking for a challenge, as if bringing George Mason out of the basement of the CAA wasn’t enough of a daunting task especially when you think of what this program was like back in 1997.
Larranaga is responsible for the George Mason program you now see that will most likely be a Top 30 team unless a bunch of guys transfer. The program obtained some brand recognition over the last couple of years and he really built something great here in Fairfax. It’s sad to seem him go as he has been the face of George Mason basketball but this was going to happen sooner or later. The head coaching job at Mason is now one of the most coveted currently available so at least we aren’t searching for a new coach during a rebuilding process.