The strange coaching search at the University of Miami finally came to an end on Friday. You know, the one that started with the mysterious hiring away of Frank Haith by Missouri and then involved several folks publicly turning down the offer, while Kansas State coach Frank Martin basically publicly threw his name in the hat?
Yeah, that one is finally over and the Hurricanes hired away Jim Larranaga from George Mason. The 61-year-old Larranaga helped build the “Who is the next George Mason?” questions that come every March when he guided George Mason to the Final Four in. But what would the whole hiring process be without a little more controversy? Larranaga’s departure simply fueled rumors that there was a rift between he and athletics director Tom O’Connor. His answers in the following interview didn’t exactly quiet those rumors. Jim Larranaga joined 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. with The Junkies to discuss the decision to leave for Miami, whether it was all about the money, the rumored rift with George Mason’s athletic director, his immediate goals at Miami and being hired at the age of 61.
How hard was it to make the decision to leave?
“It’s been an incredible 14 years. My wife and I, our whole family, has absolutely loved George Mason. The people have been so wonderful. … We’ve had a great run and, you know, I’ve left a great group of guys. It’s very, very hard to leave them, but they know, after winning the regular season title this year, in all the ridiculously early preseason polls, they’re in the top 25. So the cupboard is not bare; the run will continue.”
If George Mason could offer as much money as Miami would he have stayed?
“I’ve said this over and over and over again, money has never been a great motivating factor for me in any of my decisions. I like money, I know my wife likes money and my sons always remind me that I’m not exactly the best businessman and I need to involve them. … Money is great, it allows you to do some tangible things, but the things that are most important to me are really intangible. I’m exciting about a new challenge, the ACC.”
Is there any sort of rift between him and George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor?
“I think that’s the kind of stuff that you guys like, you like speculating. This is some kind of conspiracy theory. It’s stuff movies and TV are made of. The fact of the matter is I love George Mason, I loved working at the university, I loved the friendships that my wife and I have been able to develop, I loved living close to my son and his family …”
But what about the reported rift?
“Everybody has to understand that the process that you go through is so complicated. The University of Miami hired a search firm. The search firm didn’t contact me, they contacted my agent. My agent then contacted me, I went back through my agent, who went back to the search firm who went back to the University of Miami. … There were several days that went by that I didn’t know what was going on. But I’ll repeat this, it was a great 14 years for me and my family.”
What are his immediate goals for the Miami program?
“My realistic goal is the same every year and that is for our team to be the best that it can be. I don’t know how good we can be yet because I haven’t had a chance to be out on the floor yet with everybody.”
On being hired at Miami despite the fact that he is 61 years old:
“The first thing is that people think that your age is a negative. In Miami’s situation, with trying to do something very, very special, they felt like they needed an experienced veteran calling the plays from the sideline. The Director of Athletics, who was hired a week ago Tuesday … this was his first responsibility. … He comes from the University of Wisconsin, whose head coach in basketball is Bo Ryan. He’s very close to Bo and Bo is older than me.”