- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jim Larranaga led George Mason to its first four NCAA tournament wins and its first Final Four appearance. Now the Patriots’ coach is being rewarded with a new contract and a significant raise.

Larranaga signed a six-year deal yesterday expected to keep him in Fairfax through the 2011-12 season. The contract replaces his old one, which had three years left on it.

“I am very excited,” Larranaga said. “It is something a lot of people were asking me about and talking about. I am very comfortable with the way it transpired and am looking forward to six great years.”

Larranaga, 57, has repeatedly said he hopes to retire at Mason. The coach spurned interest from Seton Hall of the Big East after the Final Four.

The negotiations for a new deal actually began before the CAA tournament.

Then the Patriots became the first CAA team in 20 seasons to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. George Mason then won four NCAA tournament games, including wins over Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut, to advance to the Final Four.

Then the contract discussions changed a bit.

“It wasn’t a reaction to the success. It only magnified it,” George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor said. “It changed the dollars and cents of it. It changed the amount that Jim deserved. The total compensation package is a significant upgrade.”

Monetary terms of the contract were not released. Larranaga was believed to be making a combined package close to $400,000 a year before the deal but the new one is no where near $1 million, the coach said.

In nine seasons at George Mason, Larranaga has led the Patriots to three NCAA tournament berths. After going 9-18 in his first season after taking over a scandal-ridden and losing program from Paul Westhead, Larranaga has led the Patriots to eight consecutive winning season with at least 10 conference wins.

Larranaga is 166-105 (.613) at George Mason and the winningest coach in CAA history with a 112-58 league record.

The Patriots won a school-record 27 games last season and became the first CAA team to reach the Final Four before losing to Florida in the national semifinals. The 11th-seeded Patriots matched LSU in 1986 as the lowest seed ever to reach the Final Four.

In the process, Larranaga became a national phenomenon with to his candid, upbeat style.

“It’s means we are able to look to the future,” said Larranaga, who went out on a recruiting trip yesterday afternoon. “I like to not go below four years [on the contract], so recruits know I plan to be here.”

Note — Junior college All-American Andre Smith has signed to play at George Mason. The six-foot guard from Houston averaged 23.0 points for Cochise College in Arizona. “He’s fast and athletic like Tony Skinn and shoots like Lamar Butler,” Larranaga said.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide