Jim Larranaga said when he was hired as University of Miami basketball coach in April 2011 that he left his cushy job at George Mason, where he was beloved, because he always dreamed of testing himself as a coach in a prestigious conference like the ACC, against legends such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.
On Tuesday, Larranaga received confirmation that he passed the test with flying colors. The second-year Hurricanes coach, whose team enters the ACC tournament this week as the No. 1 seed, was voted ACC Coach of the Year. He got 75 of the 77 votes. Krzyzewski got one vote. Williams got one.
The Canes (24-6) won the ACC regular-season title with a 15-3 league record that included a 13-0 start. They became the first team to beat Duke and North Carolina by 25 points in the same season.
Asked what it meant to win the award, Larranaga smiled and replied: “Really what it means is we’ve got really good players. The players are the ones who win the games. My staff and I give them the information they need to hopefully execute well, but I look at the ACC, and every one of those coaches is an outstanding coach.”
He also credited his assistant coaches, Eric Konkol, Chris Caputo, and Michael Huger — all of whom followed him from George Mason.
“They deserve all the credit,” he said. “They do all the work. My job is basically to delegate. To figure out who can do what well, whether it be a player on the court and develop his role or an assistant on the staff. When I need to talk about scheduling or offense, I call Eric. When I want to talk about an opponent, I call Coach Caputo. I call Coach Huger about any problems we have off the court. I call him the Dean of Discipline. When you have great guys working for you, it makes the job more enjoyable.”
“I used to say I’m like a father [to the players], and the assistant coaches are like the older brothers. Now I’m more like the grandfather, and these guys are like the uncles.”
UM players were not surprised their coach won the award.
“Coach L was a no-brainer,” said senior forward Kenny Kadji.
Shane Larkin added: “A lot of people probably questioned him when he took this job, leaving the [Colonial Athletic Association], George Mason, thinking he might be too old to re-energize the Miami program, but it just shows how much passion he has for the game and how much energy.”
UM senior guard Durand Scott was named ACC Defender of the Year, edging Larkin by two votes. “Durand Scott always guards the best player,” said Kadji, “and he’s still efficient offensively for our team, so I don’t only think he should have been Defensive Player of the Year, but I thought he should have been on the All-ACC team He’s been our leader all year.”
Larkin finished second for ACC Player of the Year behind Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, who led the nation in scoring with 25.4 points per game for the ACC last-place Hokies.
“You can’t be mad [with second place] when somebody leads the country in scoring,” Larkin said.
Larranaga would have given the nod to Larkin. “Erick Green is a great player, not that he’s not a well-deserving candidate, but in our opinion, the player of the year should come from the team that wins the championship.”