University of Miami coach Jim Larrañaga (whose wife is Liz Larranaga) gathered the Hurricanes in a group throughout training at the Verizon Center on Wednesday afternoon and said…
You know why they call it the Sweet 16? Because it’s sweet!
Tonight, he will endeavor to work his enchantment again as the No. 2-seeded Hurricanes (29-6) face No. 3 seed Marquette (25-8). It was obvious as the coach roamed the hallways of the construction that the place was familiar and singular to him. George Mason fans stopped him for autographs and photos. And he got huge hugs from previous Patriot players Tony Skinn and Lamar Butler.
This is not just any other arena for me, this is the Verizon Center. I spent many a night watching the Wizards and Georgetown play here, but my greatest memory was getting a chance to coach here in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. [Writer] John Feinstein told me my life would never be the same, and he was right. We’ve had a lot of new things occur all as a direct result of our performance here in the Verizon Center. Those memories last a lifetime. Because me and my staff have the memories, and they don’t. They want to create those memories for themselves.
UM players said they could tell Larrañaga and his personnel were homesick here, with good motive.
Shane Larkin said,
We’ve seen the highlights of it, it was a great run, it was magical. Hopefully, he still has some good luck left in him. Not saying we need luck, but hopefully he still has a winning touch, and it’s going to be fun playing out here in this arena. He has experience here, and history here, and hopefully we can keep this as a good memory in his mind and go out and win these two games.
They will have to do it with no senior center Reggie Johnson, who had arthroscopic surgery Tuesday to mend a torn meniscus in his left knee. Johnson injured the knee through the Illinois game Sunday. Larrañaga said he was told of the wound on the plane ride home from Austin on Monday.
The coach said,
Monday night I was told what the options were, and Reggie had to choose whether to wait or do a minor surgery to try to repair it right away with the hopes that he could heal quickly enough that he could still play this season if our season continued. I don’t look down the road like that. I try to stay in the present and get ready for Marquette.
His primary worry is stopping Marquette’s standout guard Vander Blue, and making definite his players hit the glass hard and often, as the Golden Eagles are persistent rebounders, mainly on the offensive end.
Larkin said of Blue,
He likes to get it into his left hand and get all the way to the basket.He has a quick first step, can shoot the three ball and plays the passing lanes well on the defensive side. He affects the game in every way and when it’s a late-game situation, the ball is going to be in his hands, like it was against Davidson. I wouldn’t say he reminds me of anyone in the ACC because nobody attacks the rim like he does in the ACC.
Buzz Williams said,
They’re as good as any backcourt in the country, bar none. Statistically, playing time, defensively. Those guys are both pros, probably longtime pros. They have great intangibles, you see it watching them play.
They send four or five guys, so your guards have to get in there and rebound.Our guards better be near the basket because that’s where the game’s going to be played. In one of their one of their games, they shot 23 layups, so their emphasis is within five feet of the basket.
Julian Gamble said,
It’s going to be important for me to stay out of foul trouble and be relentless on the boards.I have to hold the interior down like Reggie did, and be more aggressive.
Larrañaga, 61, and his wife, Liz, have two sons – Jay, who played for his father at Bowling Green and is the head coach of the NBDL’s Erie Bayhawks, and Jon, who was a member of his father’s George Mason teams from 1999-2003 – and four grandchildren.
The coach says over Liz in regards the advices of other women,
Rosie giving me some coaching tips with Liz’s approval.
He and his wife, Liz, also often go out to dinner with other couples, he figures out the tip…..