It's not often you get the chance to hire a coach who has been to the Final Four and did it recently. But that's exactly what the University of Miami and new athletic director Shawn Eichorst pulled off in getting George Mason's Jim Larranaga to come to Coral Gables.
Larranaga, 61, flew to South Florida Friday morning to meet with UM officials and is expected to have a press conference later this afternoon. Larranaga, who spent the past 14 seasons at George Mason, left in part for more money.
George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor said as much when he spoke to the AP this morning. "In all honesty, the university can only go so far with finances," O'Connor said. "We think we put together a very, very attractive financial compensation package. We couldn't compete with an ACC school, a big football school with its budget."
You don't hear those words very often when it comes to Miami. But it's nice to see UM was willing to put up big cash for a quality coach -- even if his name wasn't Frank Martin.
Larranaga is no pushover. He led the Patriots to five NCAA tournament appearances in 14 seasons, including a suprising run to the Final Four in 2006.
Last season, he led George Mason to the CAA regular-season title and an at-large berth in the Big Dance. After beating Villanova, the Patriots lost to overall No. 1 seed Ohio State.
Before coaching at George Mason, Larranaga spent 11 seasons as the coach at Bowling Green.
At 61, he may not be at UM for a very, very long time. But he can lay a solid foundation and give this UM basketball team an identity moving forward -- the man loves pressure defense. In the end, this hire is going to turn out to be a lot better than what else UM could have ended up with. Tommy Amaker? Rob Jeter? None of those guys have Larranaga's resume.
What are your thoughts on the hiring?
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING...
ESPN's Dick Vitale on Twitter: "Miami hit a grand slam in getting Jim Larranaga from George Mason- He is a fierce competitor & has loads of contacts. Great hire!"
CBS and Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis: "Larranaga to Miami is a win win. He gets a better job for more money. UM gets a great coach. Let's not overthink this. Jim is nearing end of his career. Why not take a shot? What does he have to lose? He'll need top assts to get players but he can win there."