- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
- Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Senate Dems wary of immigration politics
- Summer camp for 1 percenters: Sushi, limos and shopping at FAO Schwarz
- Colorado gun crackdown law found to be built on faulty data
- Hank Aaron steps to fundraising plate for Democrat Michelle Nunn
- ISIL terrorists blow up burial site of Jonah, vow more of same
- Impeach Obama, say 35 percent in new poll
- Taliban yank 14 Shiites off bus, bind and shoot them on Afghan road
HARRIS: Jim Larranaga’s Miami miracle has familiar feel
Question of the Day
He was off to the side, near a tunnel that leads off the court, greeting a passel of well-wishers. There were players from the George Mason team Larranaga led to the Final Four in 2006. Some Mason staff members, some Miami boosters, some people he got to know while living in the area so long.
Rock stars don’t get the kind of reception Larranaga got, and he greeted them all with the same wide smile he pretty much wears all the time. When Larranaga is introduced before Miami’s NCAA tournament East Region game against Marquette on Thursday night, the applause is likely to be very loud.
Pain-free after having both hips replaced — the most recent only 10 months ago — Larranaga is having the time of his life. After 14 years at Mason, he headed south and led the Hurricanes to the ACC regular-season and tournament championships in this his second season at Miami.
They’re 29-6 and seeded second in the region. Another trip to the Final Four isn’t out of the question for Larranaga, though the Canes’ current season will go down as one of college basketball’s success stories no matter what happens here.
“Fun is the best medicine of all,” Larranaga said.
Larranaga is fun, from the way he gets into coaching his teams to play as hard as they do, to his sometimes corny quips and sometimes lengthy stories. He always has time to talk, always has a tale to tell.
Miami’s veterans knew they were getting a good coach when Larranaga was hired to replace Frank Haith. “We saw what did he at George Mason. His reputation was very good coming in,” said forward Kenny Kadji.
They had no idea of the complexity of the man with whom they were about to fall in love. He’s a coach, a father figure, a philosopher and, at times, a bit of a nut job. When Miami beat Illinois last weekend to earn its trip here, Larranaga spontaneously broke into his version of the Ali Shuffle. Boxer Muhammad Ali was one of his childhood heroes.
That sent his players into hysteria but didn’t surprise them. Kadji and guard Rion Brown said Larranaga doesn’t just talk to his players about going after loose balls. He dives after them himself. He doesn’t talk about rebounding, he boxes and out and grabs them himself. He doesn’t talk about taking charges. He goes on the court and takes them.
Plus, he dances.
“He’s just a very energized man,” Kadji said. “You see that, you can’t help but go out and give 100 percent all the time.”
Said Brown: “He’s throwing balls off the walls, off the ceiling, he’s diving on the floor. When you have a coach putting out that kind of energy, it makes you want to go out as hard as you can. It’s crazy, man, but that energy is lovely.”
For the longest time, Larranaga appeared to be a lifer at Mason. He took over a moribund program and turned it into a consistent winner. His family loved the area. It wasn’t a bad place to retire.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
- HARRIS: Break but don't bend? Bryce Harper quandary rears its head again for Nats
- HARRIS: Offseason nothing to look forward to for Caps or Wizards
- HARRIS: D.C. not yet spellbound by Wizards, but they're no illusion
- HARRIS: Echoes of 1978 NBA champs in these Wizards
- HARRIS: Wizards have moved to head of D.C.'s class
Latest Blog Entries
- Gio Gonzalez living a dream by throwing bullpen sessions to ex-Yankee Jorge Posada
- Meet Connor Carrick, the youngster who played his way onto the Caps' final roster
- Go Aggies: Nationals notes and lineups for Sept. 14
- RG3: There is no conflict with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan
- Sunday Nats-Dodgers lineups and some thoughts from reliever Craig Stammen
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ready for different route to title
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- PRUDEN: The Democratic-wannabe mice under Hillary Clinton's feet
- Tom Petty: 'No one's got Christ more wrong than the Christians'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq