HARRIS: Jim Larranaga’s Miami miracle has familiar feel

“He loved it at George Mason,” said assistant coach Chris Caputo, who spent nine years with Larranaga in Fairfax.

But when Alan Merten decided in early 2011 to retire as Mason’s president, Larranaga started thinking about moving. The two were very close. When Haith left Miami for Missouri, Larranaga made his move.

“When President Merten retired, that was kind of a sign for me that things were going to change and maybe it was time for me to make a change,” Larranaga said.

Fairfax’s loss, Miami’s gain. Watching Miami work out Wednesday was not dissimilar to watching a Mason practice from the Larranaga era. When he finally took the court, Larranaga gathered the team at midcourt for a brief talk. No telling what he finished it with, but the players broke the huddle laughing.

Tony Skinn sat in the stands and watched with a smile. The point guard on Mason’s Final Four team, he also saw a lot of the Patriots in the Hurricanes. And he loved watching his former coach work.

“A lot of people might not have imagined them being here,” Skinn said. “Having been under his watch, I can see it. He’s such a good coach, such a good motivator. You see how much he gives to it, you have to do the same. You have to give him the same thing he’s giving you.”

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