Im very goal-oriented. I was an assistant in the ACC at Virginia [1979-86], and when I left I wrote down that one of my goals was to become a head coach in the ACC, Larranaga said. So when the Miami job opened up I was very interested.
He did his research. He always loved the talent pool in Florida, and he found more than half the teams in the ACC had changed coaches recently.
I saw a league going through a transition period, he said. If we were able to recruit well, we could do some damage in this conference. It seemed like an opportunity to come in and succeed very quickly.
Larranaga had a very small inner circle of family and friends he consulted about the Miami job: his wife, two adult sons, Celtics coach Doc Rivers and sports psychologist Bob Rotella.
The conduit for Larranaga coming here was Jose Mas, whom he had met while coaching at a Michael Jordan fantasy camp. Mas, the son of Jorge Mas Canosa, the former Miami business leader and Cuban exile fixture, called Larranaga and invited him to forward his résumé to UM.
Larranaga was traveling and had no access to his résumé so, at a sons suggestion, he copy-and-pasted his Wikipedia page and sent it to UM. An interview was set up. His hiring didnt take long thereafter.
(Speaking of Mas Canosa, it happens that Larranaga is part Cuban. His fathers father was Cuban, emigrating to Key West in the early 1900s.)
Larranaga knew he was coming here to not just coach a team, but to grow a program in a city that hardly is a college hoops hotbed.
I want everyone in this community to be dying to get a ticket to watch us play, he said. At Bowling Green and George Mason everybody also told me we couldnt draw, but by the time I left the place was packed every night.
Coaching in the ACC had been Larranagas ultimate goal to really test yourself. Now he is finding out the league isnt too big for him. Hes big enough for the league.
I asked him if the satisfaction he feels is different now.
Dont know yet. We are still in the process of competing, he said. Then he added something that should make Canes fans smile as much as that No. 8 ranking: My career here at Miami has really just begun.