Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

Larranaga's belief fuels Miami's NCAA tourney rise

When Jim Larranaga arrived at Miami in 2011, his players had no idea what to expect. He was a 61-year-old, seemingly reserved coach who appeared to be the opposite of former coach Frank Haith. Senior center Reggie Johnson admits he wasn't sure whether this was going to work out.

"I didn't know what getting Coach L was going to be like for us," Johnson said. "He was at George Mason and I didn't know if he could handle a big-time job. But he definitely proved everyone wrong. He came in and he wanted to basically fit in yet get everyone on the same page with him. He definitely wanted to win, we wanted to win.

"But he knew you can't come in and be hard and guys don't like you. He didn't come in like that, and guys automatically respected him because he lets us know it's about winning. "

Two years later, it's still about winning. Like never before. Miami (29-6) is one victory away from advancing further in the NCAA Tournament than ever.

Tonight, the No. 2-seeded Hurricanes will play No. 3-seeded Marquette in the East Region semifinals in Washington. It is Miami's first Sweet 16 appearance since 2008.

And nobody is less surprised than Larranaga.

"Last spring when we met with the team, we asked the guys what kind of season they hoped for and would they be willing to really sacrifice and work toward that?" Larranaga said. "But we saw the ingredients that we had and we felt like if everybody made the necessary sacrifices, that we could have a great season. And all the guys did. … And as I could see things unfolding coming into the practice season in the fall, I could see this team could be very, very special."

The Hurricanes won the ACC regular-season and tournament titles. The players said the success can be traced to Larranaga and his staunch belief that Miami could be better than it was.

"I think at the beginning it was a culture change," senior forward/center Julian Gamble said. "That's something that he wanted to focus on, just changing the culture and what people thought about Miami basketball. So really it was just getting back to the fundamentals of the game and throughout the game having that toughness about us, toughness that teams really remember us for. And because we have so many veterans, it's a lot easier for us to buy into what he's saying, because we just want to win."

"He knew that we had a pretty good team and we could do some great things," senior forward Kenny Kadji added. "He came in and gave us a plan, told us what to do to execute it. And that's what we did."

That plan began on Day 1 in a team meeting in which Larranaga told the players about a book he'd read many years ago — The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He told them being successful would require them to develop the right habits and to sacrifice and that before you can truly be successful, you have to dream it, visualize it, then go prepare properly.

"They embraced that philosophy and that attitude, and we have been two years in the making," he said.

Tonight Larranaga's Hurricanes will play about 30 minutes from his old school in the Verizon Center, where he led George Mason to the Final Four in 2006, losing to Florida. He knows how quickly it all plays out — these three weeks of the NCAA Tournament — and the mass media attention that goes with it. It's why he has asked, make that demanded, that his players fully embrace the moment. And he has promised to do the same.

"I want the players to enjoy this, especially our seniors," Larranaga said. "This is the one and only time that they will get to experience this. If you start talking about how much pressure someone is feeling, they start to dwell on that. If you talk about how much fun you want to have, the players focus on that. … Kind of make dreams come true."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

HOUSTON — The Rays brought up several of their top prospects so they can get as much experience as possible.And Monday that included seeing how the relentless defending champion Astros worked their way back from an early four-run deficit to sco...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

HOUSTON — Well before the idea of using a reliever to open games, as the Rays did against the Astros Monday for the 12th time, and then bringing in a starter was even a gleam in the eyes of the current Rays staff, former manager Lou Piniella wa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

RHP Ryne Stanek continues to look comfortable and confident as the game opener, retiring all five batters he faced. His six starts now cover a complete game, and he has allowed only two runs in the nine innings.OF Carlos Gomez's feelings about not li...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Tuesday, June 19

TODAYBaseballOrioles at Nationals7 p.m.MLBRays at Astros8 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Giants10 p.m.FSFDiamondbacks at Angels10 p.m.ESPNCollege baseball, World SeriesFlorida vs. Texas2 p.m.ESPNTexas Tech vs. Arkansas7 p.m.ESPNGolfPGA Professionals c...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

TAMPA — Iceland isn't what it used to be. Literally. The Nordic island country is shrinking, what with global warming. Iceland's glaciers are getting smaller. If you took all that ice and laid it end to end, well, you clearly have nothing bette...
Updated: 5 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, trying to stop a streaking champion

For starters: Rays at Astros, trying to stop a streaking champion

UPDATE, 6:40: Cash said he had a good talk with Hechavarria, and that he understood the situation. Cash said Hechavarria will get to play some, and when he does it will be at short. … RHP Chris Archer (abdominal strain) is slated to throw a bul...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Kevin Kiermaier set to rejoin Rays Tuesday

Kevin Kiermaier set to rejoin Rays Tuesday

CF Kevin Kiermaier is here in Houston and will work out with the Rays today, and said that if all goes well he will be activated on Tuesday.That would be a couple days ahead of his most recent timetable, which had him slated to return to Friday.Kierm...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Captain’s Corner: Tips on targeting American Red Snapper

American Red Snapper (ARS) season opened a few days ago and some types of bottom are holding bigger schools of ARS then other bottom types. The hard bottom areas that most fishermen prefer are holding large schools of ARS, but the fish have yet to m...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Barry Trotz resigns as coach of Stanley Cup-winning Capitals

Barry Trotz resigns as coach of Stanley Cup-winning Capitals

Barry Trotz abruptly stepped down as coach of the Washington Capitals on Monday after failing to agree to terms on a new contract, a stunning move that left the newly minted Stanley Cup champions without a coach with the draft later this week and wit...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Will Gholston is painfully honest about a 2017 season that wasn't anything close to what he wanted it to be. Ask him about last year, and there are no parentheses in his world to soften what he remembers here."I just played (crappy), completely. That...
Updated: 10 hours ago