Roundup of the Larranaga to Miami news

Confused about what is going on with all this Jim Larranaga to University of Miami news?  Your not alone.  The news broke yesterday afternoon and the latest is that he is expected to meet with Miami officials today.  As of late Thursday he has not accepted the job. Here is what we know at this point:
– Gary Parrish broke the news yesterday that Coach L was in serious discussion with Miami about their coaching vacancy
– Steven Goff of the Washington Post confirmed that Miami asked for and was given permission to talk to Larranaga
– Local DC radio station 106.7 The Fan reported that George Mason assistant coaches were looking for other jobs.  They also insinuated that one of Larranaga’s reasons for leaving could be the University not paying to keep his assistants.  Some rumors also flowed around yesterday that Chris Caputo was out securing a new gig.
– Many are saying the move could have something to do with GMU president Alan Merten retiring.  It was no secret Merten’s dedication to the basketball program was one of the reasons Coach L stayed after the offers were pouring in back in 2006. Might Larranaga think a new president won’t be as committed to helping the program’s growth continue?
– Later on yesterday Len Robbins of the NY Post stated that Larranaga was holding a team meeting and that is basically a done deal that he was moving on to Miami. A few hours later this report was shot down by Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman who tweeted no such team meeting happened.
– This brings us to today were the Miami Herald is saying Larranaga is one his way to Miami today to meet with University officials. They go on to say a deal could be reached today and that the two sides were close to a deal last night.  
-This morning Michelle Kaufman who wrote that article from the Miami Herald was 106.7 The Fan this morning.  Sounds like all speculation to me.  If Larranaga is doing a dance to get more from George Mason I could definitely see him going to Miami and meeting with them. Nothing is signed yet.  Will post podcast of that when it is up.

Jim Larranaga in discussion with Miami officials about the school’s coaching vacancy

Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com just posted this interesting little tidbid about Coach Larranaga:

“George Mason’s Jim Larranaga has had serious discussions with Miami officials about the ACC school’s coaching vacancy, multiple sources told CBSSports.com on Thursday. Whether Larranaga is leveraging for a better deal from George Mason or on the verge of actually moving to Miami is unclear, both sources said. But the talks are advanced and ongoing, and the 61-year-old New York native has developed into Miami’s top target.”

More to come as this story develops. Hopefully it’s just some smoke and perhaps Larranaga is trying to get another raise from George Mason. Keep in mind that Larranaga is widely viewed as the ambassador of the CAA (and mid-majors for that matter) and VCU’s Shaka Smart is set to make about $500K more per year in his base salary.

Update: Steven Goff of the Post writes that George Mason granted Miami permission to talk to Jim Larranaga.

Update: According to 106.7 The Fan this afternoon some of the assistant coaches are looking for new jobs. Losing a guy like Chris Caputo would be a huge loss.

Update: Len Robbins from the NY Post reported that Coach L called a meeting to address the team tonight. Hard to think this would be for anything other than his departure from Fairfax.

Now Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports has stated there was so such meeting at George Mason. Wow.

George Mason is not in this year’s Final Four but they will certainly be in the TV coverage this weekend

George Mason might not have made it to this year’s Final Four in Houston but that doesn’t mean they won’t be talked about this weekend. If you are trying your action on College Basketball Betting provided by BetUS then don’t forget to catch Jim Larranaga, the Godfather of Cinderellas, will join CBS’s official pre-game television coverage on Saturday starting at 4 p.m. He will join host Greg Gumbel and analysts Greg Anthony, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Seth Davis. I never thought I’d see Coach L on a TV broadcast with Charles Barkley, this could be gold.

There is also going to be a special presented by Fox Sports called “Mason Impossible: The Story of Coach L and the Improbable Patriots”, great title. The program will be aired on Saturday at 12 p.m., Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and Monday evening at 8 p.m. Not sure from GoMason.com’s release what channel this is actually going to be on. Is there a Fox College Sports channel? Nevertheless great to see Mason getting more free pub during VCU’s run.

If you don’t get the Fox College Sports channel you can watch the special here. Here is the first segment, you can watch the rest by clicking that link.

Also a great read today from Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times debunking the George Mason-VCU Final Four comparisons.

In case your wondering how Jim Larranaga’s salary and bonus stack up among all the coaches in the NCAA tournament

USA Today did an analysis of the salaries and other compensation of all 68 teams’ head coaches in this year’s NCAA tournament. Jim Larranaga appears to be in about the middle of this list however the data for some private universities was not available.  Coach L is the highest paid head coach of the three CAA teams that made the big dance this year and I think it’s crazy that Shaka Smart was making that much more than ODU’s Blaine Taylor this season (edit: I found out later that Taylor makes more from booster club funds). From the data USA Today collected it appears some info is missing for team bonuses paid to these coaches but it sure seems like Coach L is going to be very well compensated this season.  They have his bonus at $460,000 and was probably a result of the team’s regular season success along with the team’s victory over Villanova in the tournament.  I would not be surprised if his success in 2006 allowed him to get in these big money incentives into his contract as opposed to him getting a higher salary in the ACC or Big East. Also part of that bonus is academic-related:

“At George Mason, which made the tournament this year and famously reached the 2006 Final Four, rewarding academic success emphasizes school values. When coach Jim Larranaga signed a new contract in 2006, his academic incentives included a team grade-point average of 3.0. In 2009, the school raised the bar to 3.3. Meeting that would earn Larranaga about $52,500.”

[via USA Today]

Transcript of Jim Larranaga’s WSJ Live Chat

Here is the transcript from Jim Larranaga’s Live Chat on WSJ.com today:

Sweet 16 Analysis from George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga
(03/23/2011) 
Wednesday March 23, 2011
4:31
JournalCommunity: 

We’re looking forward to being joined by Coach Larranaga on Thursday at noon ET. Ask your questions below and he’ll get to as many as possible when this event goes live. Thanks!

Thursday March 24, 2011
12:00
Adam Thompson: 

We’re here with Coach Larranaga, who generously decided to join us from Florida to talk about the greatest three weeks in sports.

12:00
Jim Larranaga: 

Very excited to be a part of the Wall Street Journal’s interaction with the basketball fans around the country.

12:00
Comment From Jorge Ramirez 

This sure is a craaazy tournament, huh?

12:01
Jim Larranaga: 

I believe the NCAA basketball tournament is the greatest sporting event in this country. I believe that because there are so many games with so many thrilling endings with so many storylines and it lasts the three weeks. There is never a dull moment.

12:03
Comment From Aaron 

In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between VCU now and VCU 5 weeks ago?

12:03
Jim Larranaga: 

VCU has been an outstanding team all season long. They won some outstanding games in the non-conference portion of their schedule and also played very well during the regular season of the CAA race. But players don’t play the same way all the time…

12:04
Jim Larranaga: 

Some nights players are on fire and can’t miss, and some nights for whatever reason players may have a difficult time making their shots. VCU’s players are on a mission and have shown the basketball world that they are a team to reckon with and they are showing the world that the CAA is an underrated league. It took the wisdom of the selection committee to extend them an at-large bid.

12:04
Comment From Brian-GMU Alum 

How did recruiting change after the 2006 run? Does it have a lasting effect even to this day?

12:05
Jim Larranaga: 

Recruiting after the Final Four was very different than before our run. Because of our run, we were able to get on television more than ever before. And that exposure created interest not only locally, regionally but also nationally.

12:06
Jim Larranaga: 

We did a research project and discovered that George Mason was on television 25 times a season, which ranked us fourth amongst non-BCS schools. Memphis, Gonzaga, Xavier and George Mason were the top four non-BCS schools to appear on television more times than anybody else. That opened up plenty of doors in the recruiting.

12:07
Comment From Gerald Ung 

What can be done against Ohio St? You go zone, they shoot holes in it. You go man, they dump it to Sullinger and he does one armed pull ups on the rim. Can Diebler possibly shoot it any better? And Aaron Craft’s bullet passes! Wow!

12:08
Jim Larranaga: 

What makes Ohio State such a challenging opponent for anyone is that Thad Matta has developed a program that plays consistently hard at both ends of the floor. They share the ball as well as any team in the country, they defend with a great deal of determination, and they have unique chemistry that makes them worthy of the number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

12:08
Comment From sunjay shah 

Does Kentucky have what it takes to beat OSU?

12:08
Jim Larranaga: 

Coach John Calipari has put together another great Kentucky team. The matchup between UK and Ohio State should be a great one. If Kentucky is able to slow down the 3-point shooting that was so instrumental in OSU’s last two victories, then they should have a good chance of being in a close game where either team could win.

12:09
Comment From John 

How does Florida stop Jimmer?

12:09
Jim Larranaga: 

No one really stops Jimmer. He’s truly one of the great scorers in college basketball this season. What Florida’s defenders must do is limit his number of open looks which is not easy to do. The BYU Florida game is one of the best matchups in the Sweet 16 and I believe it will be either a buzzer-beater in regulation or an overtime game.

12:10
Comment From Rick J 

Is it tougher to prepare for the second weekend of the tournament, after the kids return to campus and take in all the adulation of making the Sweet 16?

12:10
Jim Larranaga: 

Preparation for the Sweet 16 is very different than the early rounds. The first reason it’s different is because of the amount of media exposure. Coaches and players have to be very careful not to be distracted by all the talk and hype. The media has a job to do but so do coaches and players..

12:11
Jim Larranaga: 

The preparation for your opponent is different as well. You have a few days to prepare for the Sweet 16. Knowing the opponent and having more familiarity can really help. However, if you’re playing a team that you know very little about, your staff still has enough time to educate your team and prepare them…

12:12
Jim Larranaga: 

The Elite 8 game becomes very difficult because you have only 24 hours to prepare. That is why the best team normally prevails.

12:12
Comment From Eddie D 

Nova fan here – how did you shoot holes in our defense? We have big guys who can do one handed pull ups. And your guys just carved holes in us down the stretch!

12:13
Jim Larranaga: 

We’ve had the opportunity to play Villanova several times leading up to our game this year in the NCAA Tournament. In two previous games, one in the ESPN Old Spice Classic in Orlando, we lost a close game by single digits. In Puerto Rico last year, we lost by a single point. Our players were really bound and determined to find a way to turn those close losses into a close victory…

12:14
Jim Larranaga: 

Our players found a way to get inside of Villanova’s defense often enough to give us a chance at the end. Luke Hancock and Ryan Pearson stepped up and made big plays which allowed us to overcome the deficit and beat Villanova.

12:14
Jim Larranaga: 

It was a great accomplishment for our team.

12:15
Comment From J. Adam Greer 

Coaching at a smaller school you’re obviously not in contention with big-time recruits (McDonald’s All American caliber). At the non-BCS level is coaching ability much more of a focus than recruiting ability when you know that you’re looking at four year players as opposed to one-and-dones?

12:16
Jim Larranaga: 

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, no matter what level. Although coaching plays a factor in success, it’s far more important to have really good players because those are the ones that are making the split-second decisions that lead to victory. My coaching staff does an outstanding job of identifying the players we feel can be successful at George Mason. There are a lot of factors that go into our decision-making. We make our decision as to who to recruit based on the Eight C’s:

12:17
Jim Larranaga: 

Character, competitiveness, competence, consistency, cohesiveness, commitment, communication and confidence.

12:18
Comment From Neal 

What is your opinion on Cam Long, perhaps, getting to play in the NBA?

12:19
Jim Larranaga: 

Cam Long has had an outstanding college career at George Mason University. He has played and started in more games than anyone in the school’s history, he is 6’4″, 190 pounds and an outstanding run-and-jump athlete. He also has a beautiful jumpshot with NBA range. For Cam to be an NBA player, he will have to be fortunate enough to be identified by the right team because so much is based on being given the right opportunity.

12:19
Jim Larranaga: 

We hope that he’ll be picked up by the Boston Celtics so that he can understudy Ray Allen. That would be the ideal situation for him.

12:20
Comment From George A 

Sweet 16 venues are oftentimes the larger arenas that are definitely used now for the Final Four. Do you do anytihng different/special that helps to prepare your team for shooting in those large venues that are so different from some of the gyms that they play in during the year?

12:21
Jim Larranaga: 

One of the very challenging experiences for our 2006 Final Four team was playing in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Not only was it the first time one of our players have ever played in a dome, it was the first time any of them had ever BEEN in a dome.

12:21
Jim Larranaga: 

There was no way for us to prepare them for that circumstance. The teams getting ready to play in the Sweet 16 and then again in the Final 4 will hopefully have already played in a dome prior to this experience. Because they will not have the time nor the availability to practice in a dome until they arrive at that site this week.

12:22
Comment From Fuad 

What are your thoughts on FSU?

12:23
Jim Larranaga: 

We believe the matchup between Florida State and VCU should be one of the great storylines of this 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Neither team was given much of a chance to reach this point and now one of them is guaranteed a chance to play in the Elite 8. The excitement those players will feel has to be channeled in the right direction in order to survive.

12:23
Jim Larranaga: 

But it should be an outstanding game with Florida State’s defense trying to stop the incredible 3-point shooting of VCU’s offense.

12:23
Comment From Steve 

Hi Coach Larranga, we saw your video on your favorite block about Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, http://t.co/D980CVJ, great job. Did you know Coach Wooden personally and attend any of his camps as a young coach?

12:25
Jim Larranaga: 

I only met Coach Wooden one time when I was a young assistant coach at Davidson College and Pauley Pavillion. But I had the great honor of speaking to him three years ago when Bill Walton arranged for me to talk with Coach Wooden about post play. Coach Wooden spoke to me for 20 minutes and it was one of the highlights for me that year. He was 97 years old at the time, and spoke as clearly and concisely as any person I’d ever spoken to no matter what age.

12:26
Jim Larranaga: 

His ability to communicate his thoughts and paint a very clear picture of how he taught the game of basketball was evident during that 20 minute conversation. I am still a great admirer of his.

12:26
Adam Thompson: 

We’ve got time for a couple more questions.

12:26
Comment From Tom Corbett 

Any word on your former player Jai Lewis? I know he has been playing in Japan and I hope we don’t have to start thinking about Jai Lewis: remembered!

12:27
Jim Larranaga: 

Jai Lewis has been playing overseas for the last five seasons. This year he is in Japan. We heard from Jai after the earthquake and tsunami that he was fine and doing well. Of course we always wish him and all of our former players the best of luck.

12:27
Comment From Mac G 

Based on how they are playing so far through the tournament, who do you like to go all the way?

12:28
Jim Larranaga: 

There are 16 very different teams in the field. And every one of them has a challenging opponent. Yet, every one of them is capable of winning and advancing to the Final 4. Ohio State, Kansas, and Duke are likely favorites to reach Houston, but I’m pulling for the non-BCS schools like San Diego State, BYU, Richmond, and VCU – for one of them – to advance.

12:30
Adam Thompson: 

Coach, thanks very much. Any final words?

12:30
Jim Larranaga: 

I’d just like to thank anyone who chose to participate in this online event. I appreciate their interest in college basketball and hope they’ll be cheering for George Mason in the future.

Jim Larranaga a finalists for the Hugh Durham Award

George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga is among the sixteen finalists for the 2011 Hugh Durham Award.  The award is essentially given to the to top mid-major coach in Division I college basketball. Because you have to have won or shared your conferences’ regular season title or won your conference tournament to be a finalist you won’t see VCU’s Shaka Smart on here; which kind of makes no sense to me.  Regardless still a nice recognition for Coach L after he guided the Patriots to their best regular season in program history.  
Coach L will be doing a live chat today over on WSJ.com starting at 12 pm.

[Photo Credit: JWPowell9 via Flickr]

Why Jim Larranaga might surprise us again this year in the NCAA tournament

I tend to think of Jim Larranaga as an unorthodox head coach, making moves that sometimes leaves you scratching your head but in the end produces results. This season has already been living proof of how good this team can be when they fully buy into his game plan philosophy. And we saw how great of a game coach he can be in 2006 during the Final Four run when he has a balanced, versatile group of players.  I believe he has a squad like that again this year and it allows him to take high-risk high-reward chances like he did five years.  In the Patriots’ last NCAA tournament game in 2008 it was a different story. They relied heavily on the play of Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell and had spotty production from the rest of the group both on offense and defense.  Perhaps the difference in those two teams is the amount of trust Larranaga had in each one and how it effected his coaching decisions.  

An article today from Yahoo Sports reminds us of the gutsy call Coach L made in that 2006 Elite Eight game versus UConn:

The design of the greatest NCAA Tournament upset ever came not in frantic scribbles on a clipboard and furious offensive calls but rather in the beautiful simplicity of the same play perfectly run over and over and over again.

Larranaga calls this play “three” and drawn out on paper it must look so confusing with its array of options: Curls across the top, passes down to the two big men below, a drive and layup underneath. But as the mighty Connecticut Huskies lunged at George Mason that afternoon in 2006, Larranaga did something few coaches would have the stomach to try. He shouted “run three,” with about 10:00 left in the game and then after watching his players score a basket, he never took it off for the rest of regulation and all over overtime until the Mason players were dancing on the floor, trimming the nets and heading to a Final Four that UConn, the No. 1 seed, seemed to treat as a birthright.

It is a brilliant example of coaching. Or rather, not over-coaching, of not letting ego complicate something that is working well. Too many other men in his place would have been signaling for substitutes, holding up fingers, bellowing anything simply tolook as if they were coaching harder than they ever had in their life. Larranaga resisted this temptation in the biggest game he ever coached. In addition to running the same play the last 25 times George Mason took the ball down the court, he never made a substitution in that time, either.

Yes your reading that correctly, George Mason ran the same play with the same five players for their last 25 possessions against UConn in that game. I think this a perfect example of Coach L getting the most out of a team he had built to near perfection when it comes to playing as a ‘team’.  We don’t know if he can get the same results as from this year’s team as he did that season, it’s very unlikely, but it just goes to show how good this team can be if they believe in their coach like the players did in 2006.

I’m not trying to complain this year’s team to the 2006 one, I’m just saying this team might instill the confidence in Coach L that that team did during the post season.  We may see some more interesting coaching moves that pay off like that way that one did against UConn.  Larranaga has already said they will be tweaking their game plan a bit so don’t be surprised if we see some new things on Friday. I have a feeling Larranaga has got a few more tricks up his sleeve this go around. 

Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock got banged up in practice yesterday

There are two media outlets reporting today that Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock left practice early yesterday with ankle injuries.  The Washington Times tells us it was due to new shoes sent to Mason by Nike and the Washington Post goes as far as telling us Hancock was wheeled off the court on a rolling office chair. The local media is probably blowing this out of proportion and the coaching staff is most likely just being cautious about their two starters but this still isn’t news Mason fans will take lightly.  
Nevertheless Coach Larranaga didn’t put Mason fans on ease today when he was asked about it during an interview on 106.7 The Fan this morning with the Junkies. You can listen here:

He dodged the question and it shouldn’t be surprising as you don’t want to show your cards to an opposing team before the start of an NCAA tournament game where any info can be an advantage. Even if the injuries to the two prevent some minutes you have to remember that guard is where the Patriots are the deepest. Injuries to guys like Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison would disrupt the teams flow a lot more but this could still be significant.  

You can watch a video from ESPN’s “All-Access with George Mason” that includes some interviews and footage from yesterday’s practice below. The team leaves for Cleveland today. 
What’s funny is in the video is that Mike Morrison asks Luke Hancock how he likes his new Nikes. Bet he had a different answer after practice.

Also from ESPN you can vote for Rashad Whack in their “Coolest name in the NCAA tournament” bracket.

Don’t forget you can still join the GMUHoops.com Bracket Challenge:
http://gmuhoops.mayhem.cbssports.com/e (password is mason)

Providence might be looking for a new coach, so naturally Jim Larranaga is again thrown into the mix of possible candidates

It’s being reported that Providence is expected to part ways with head coach Keno Davis as early as this weekend. With this news some are already penciling in Jim Larranaga as a possible candidate to replace him. If you remember three years Larranaga rejected an offer to coach the Friars, his alma mater and a school that plays in the Big East conference.  I’m writing this post to tell you Larranaga isn’t going anywhere. 
First of all he turns 62 this October and he signed a one-year extension last March that locks him in Fairfax throught the 2015-2016 season. I can’t imagine he’d sign that extension if he had any thoughts of ending his coaching career somewhere other than George Mason. Also, it would take about 4-5 years to resurrect that program at Providence even if Larranaga was maximizing his recruiting by selling the lure of the Big East to high school kids. Also, the old coach now has deeply rooted ties with George Mason and keeps openly voicing his love for the green and gold and the university itself. The coach has praised the school for committing more money over the years for facilities and Providence’s right now are nothing to get excited about. It also doesn’t hurt that the Patriots are coming off their best regular season ever. If he wanted to jump to a bigger conference he would have done it three years go when the offers were pouring in. In short you can put money on Larranaga finishing his coaching career at George Mason.

Now let’s back to our speculating of March Madness…

[Photo credit: Shamus Ian Fatzinger/Fairfax Times]