As I was writing my game story on deadline Monday night out at the BankUnited Center I got a visit from UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who was nice enough to come back and look for me after the game to follow through on a chat I had requested with him while he was busy earlier in the evening. On a night when he was hosting other guests and chatting with President Donna Shalala, Hocutt could have just forgotten about it entirely. But the fact he remembered was nice.
Anyway, it wasn't a very long conversation, but I did get to throw a few questions at him. I didn't have my tape recorder, but I did have my notebook. So, some of this will be paraphrased off my notes. We'll start with football.
> The first question was obvious -- what if anything could he tell us about the search to fill the offensive coordinator vacated by Patrick Nix. While he obviously wasn't going to drop any names or give us any hints he did provide some insight. "One thing I can tell you is we're looking for the best candidate possible, somebody who is experienced and can do the best job at not only developing these young players, but helping us win games. There is nothing we're in an urgency to do. We're in the process of talking to some people and finding the best candidate to run the system that Coach Shannon wants to run. That's really the biggest factor."
> I brought up the fact that last year Miami took its time -- about a month -- before replacing Tim Walton with Bill Young. "Again, we're not in a rush," Hocutt said. "We don't see hiring a coordinator before national signing day as a necessity. We see choosing the right person as the top priority."
> I asked him how he felt about the team's fade from being in the ACC title hunt to losing its final three games. I asked him if there was going to be more pressure on Coach Shannon and his assistants next season to compete for a conference title and national championship.
"That's the goal to compete for championships here. It was a tough finish to the season. But I saw it as a step forward. This was a really young football team. What I really admired about the team was that those players never gave up. They were hurt, short-handed, but the kept fighting. It's a testament to the coaches. I really believe we have the right guys coaching this team. The future is bright. Randy is with us for the long haul. I know everyone wants to see this program win a championship tomorrow. I do. But I really believe we're doing it right. Randy is not out looking for the quick fixes. He's recruiting not only great athletes, but great kids. We're looking to build a winner to stay over time. And I think we've got the right man leading us."
> Before I had to run back to finish my game story, I had to toss a couple basketball questions his way. Hocutt's face lit up talking about coach Frank Haith, who got an extension and a raise this past offseason through the 2013-2014 season. Hocutt, who watched Monday's win over FAU, said he expects UM's new basketball practice facility to be completed by March 1st -- just in time for the McDonald's All-American game. As for other facility upgrades and endeavors... "We're in the planning stages right now of planning some major upgrades to the Hecht Athletic Center. We really want to get the work on the football locker room and training room done. After that, the athletic training center, Cobb Stadium upgrades, the Hall of Fame and the tennis center."
Not everything I wanted to get into my basketball game story made it. Here are some leftovers...
> UM coach Frank Haith said he was proud of his team's 11-2 non-conference schedule. "11-2 non-league, with the schedule we played, I feel real good about us being in good shape, where we want to be. No bad losses, strong RPI, strength of schedule top 5 in the country, we are where we want to be. That strength of schedule won't change in the ACC."
> Forward Jimmy Graham, who bruised his right wrist severly two weeks ago when he slipped in the shower, saw his first action in three games. He played with what appeared to be a soft cast for nine minutes. He grabbed four rebounds and had one steal. Haith said Graham practiced for the first time Sunday in a few weeks. "Jimmy is quite yet back to form," Haith said. "He's going to need to get a few more practices in. He's not quite ready yet."