University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larrañaga met with the media for his post-season wrap on Wednesday afternoon, and addressed his future (he has no intention of retiring anytime soon), Bruce Brown’s future (he’s staying one more year, but then may bolt to the NBA), the incoming freshmen (Lonnie Walker is projected to be a one-and-done), and other topics of interest to Hurricane fans.
Here is the interview, unfiltered:
On his future: “I had a dad ask me, said there was a rumor I was going to be retiring and I said, `Well, that’s fake news right there!’ I have no intentions of retiring. I want to coach as long as I can. I love the University of Miami and as long as they’ll have me, I’m going to be here. My contract goes through 2022. The kids who are sophomores in high school, I can tell them I’m going to be here.
Is he ever tempted to stop coaching? “Temptation? Are you kidding me? I have so many friends who have retired who are miserable. I talked to a friend of mine who said, `I’ve got to get back working.’ I said, `What? You’re 72.’ He said, `I know, there’s nothing to do. You can’t keep busy enough to feel like you’re doing things that are worthwhile.’ I’m not a golfer. I don’t play tennis anymore. My fun is being on the court with the players; and as long as I can be productive and my players enjoy being around me, I’m going to continue to coach as long as I can.”
On Brown, who just completed his freshman season: “When you go outside the area, into the new realm of NBA basketball, everything is about being one-and-done. So, you have agents talking about it, NBA scouts evaluating younger players, the combine, the draft. So, people are constantly asking Bruce, constantly – kids on campus, friends, family, `What are you going to do?’ It was important for us to sit down and talk with Bruce. Coach Brunt and they sat with him and AAU coach. I also talked to him. He had multiple conversations. Plus, I talked to his Mom and you have to do your research to figure out what’s best. But after all those discussions, it became very, very clear that Bruce felt the best decision to make was to come back to UM and work at improving his game. But a lot of people feel beyond next year, it’s very doubtful he’ll remain in college because he’s going to be very capable of putting his name in the draft and being a first-round draft pick.”
What Brown needs to work on: “You’ve got to be ready to play that position immediately. The NBA is not about development. It’s not that you don’t develop through age, experience and skills. But if you go there and you’re ill-prepared, then you sit at the end of the bench, they send you to the D-League, and none of those guys going think they’re going to the D-League. They all think they’re going to start or be in the rotation. So, we want to prepare Bruce and everyone else on our team to be best they can be once they get there.”
On recruiting: “In the past, if a coach left, the players he had recruited to his program should be given a release and be able to transfer without penalty. Now, everyone’s transferring out, even with the penalty. I cannot forecast what the ACC is going to look like for at least another two months because everyone in our league is still recruiting. We will be recruiting until the end of June. It’s very challenging.”
The team’s needs right now: “We need a four-year transfer guard to sit out and we need a fifth-year front-court guy who can shoot threes who could play right away. Looking at our roster, we know Ja’Quan Newton is going to graduate, a strong likelihood that Bruce Brown – if he continues his development – will be two-and-done. Lonnie Walker, by many evaluators is project to be one-and-done. So, if you lose all those in one year, hard to replace in recruiting process, so we’re trying to do that now.”
On incoming McDonald’s All-American Lonnie Walker: “One of the areas he’s going to need to work on, to prove to NBA scouts he deserves to be drafted after one year of college, is defense. In Lonnie’s case, the first thing we will address with him is, `How do you become a lockdown defender?’ Because at you’re size, you’re going to play against some of the best players in the world who are 6-5, 6-6, who have been in the NBA for 5- 7 12 years, guys like Dwyane Wade. Russell Westbrook. Can you guard a guy like that? Cause if you can’t, very hard to get playing time in the NBA.”
Lonnie is a high-octane open court player. Great at taking the ball to the basket, and scoring in a variety of ways – layups, dunks, floaters, pull-up jumpers, and also a three-point shooter.
On incoming freshman point guard Chris Lykes: “He’s going to be our Energizer bunny. He’ll have to learn to play college defense. But no matter what his role is, he’ll be a catalyst for us on both ends of the court. Guys will like playing with him. He’ll make them better players. They’ll all want him on the court because he’s a high-energy, high-octane, a ball of energy type guy.”
On what he expects of D.J. Vasiljevic as a sophomore: “We’ve asked him to get in the best shape of his life. It’s not that he couldn’t run, it’s that he was probably carrying 10 pounds too much. He’s going to have to reduce his body fat and pounds so he can be as quick as possible. From a defensive standpoint, his improvement was dramatic. At the beginning of the year, I wondered if I’d be able to play him. By January, I loved the progress he was making and I never doubted he could go in and guard guys. Doesn’t mean he’s going to stop them. Not like he’s All-Defense. But he wasn’t hurting us. But he’s only 6-2, and not the high-flying athlete, so he’s going to work on ball-handling, strength and conditioning and becoming a great three-point shooter.”
On development of Dewan Huell his freshman year: “His attitude, effort and commitment were sensational. I don’t think anyone will recognize him next year. That’s my projection. My forecast is Dewan will be a double-double guy by next season.”
Asked what he bases that confidence on, Larranaga smiled and replied: “Forty-five years of experience evaluating players and seeing them develop.”