Commentary

Larranaga an impact hire for Miami

Originally Published: April 4, 2011
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Down at Miami, the administration hit a grand slam, baby! That's right, the Hurricanes hit a long ball over the left field fence when they got Jim Larranaga as the new hoops coach.

Larranaga brings a wealth of experience to South Beach. He built George Mason into one of the premier mid-major programs in America, a la Butler and Gonzaga. Larranaga is a flat-out winner. He started at George Mason in 1997 and turned down a number of offers over the years, including one by his alma mater, Providence. He led the Patriots to five NCAA berths during his tenure there, including one this season when his team went 27-7.

[+] EnlargeJIm Larranaga
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireJim Larranaga took mid-major George Mason to the Final Four. Can he do the same for an underwhelming Miami program?

He could have stayed at George Mason and been comfortable with a solid nucleus returning. Instead he decided to compete in the tough ACC, going up against the likes of Coach K and Roy Williams. The opportunity to build another winner was enticing. It also helped that he had a number of family members living in Florida already.

People don't realize what a competitor he was as a player at Providence. He was so fierce, a solid ball handler who attacked defenses. A total package, Larranaga has great knowledge of the game and a terrific personality that should sell at a program that has had moderate success.

He will be able to recruit and sell the value of playing in the ACC.

Larranaga has experience in the league. He did an outstanding job as an assistant on several very good teams at Virginia under the tutelage of Terry Holland.

He also has great experience as a head coach at Bowling Green and George Mason. Overall, he is approaching 500 Ws in his coaching career.

I firmly believe that when you look at all of the hires made, and there have been over 40 coaching changes for next season already, this will rank as a coup. Larranaga is a great communicator and recruiter, and he manages game situations and practice well. He gets an A+ in all of those areas.

Larranaga will give a boost to the Miami program. Hey, South Beach, LeBron and D. Wade, you have some company in basketball circles, baby! As a football fan, though not an expert like the GameDay crew, I think Miami has done well in hiring lately. I have seen what Al Golden did at Temple, and he can make an impression on the Hurricane football scene.

The Miami administration has scored a doubleheader with Golden and Larranaga.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.