Jim Larrañaga was in the running for the University of Miami coaching job in April 2011 and debating whether to take it if it was offered or stay at George Mason, where he was revered and comfortable.
His son, Jay, now a Boston Celtics assistant, told his father: “You really have to take the job. Do you know how much fun it is to compete against [North] Carolina and Duke?’’
Father replied: “It’s only fun if you win. I have to figure out if we can actually compete.’’
The answer turned out to be a resounding “Yes.”
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The Hurricanes were 1-15 against Duke before Larrañaga took over. Since his arrival, they are 3-2, including a 90-74 thumping of then-No. 4 Duke last season at Cameron Indoor Stadium and a 2013 classic in which the Canes knocked off the then-top-ranked Blue Devils 90-63 at home.
Duke is back in Coral Gables for a 7 p.m. ESPN “Big Monday’’ game against Miami, and this time the Hurricanes are ranked ahead of the Blue Devils. UM (15-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) was ranked 15th in the AP poll and Duke (15-5, 4-3) was 20th heading into the release of the new poll on Monday.
Duke is coming off an 88-78 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday after losing three consecutive games to unranked teams by a total of 11 points. Despite the Blue Devils’ recent struggles, the Canes are taking them just as seriously as ever. And a sellout crowd is expected.
“Whenever I think of Duke, I think of coach Mike Krzyzewski and the incredible job he has done,” Larrañaga said. “There’s not a single coach in the history of the game like him. He is the corporate head coach of America. He’s the winningest coach in college basketball history. He coaches our national team.
“He’s been able to recruit McDonald’s All-Americans. Last year, they win the national championship, lose Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor, and you say, ‘Oh, they lost their four best players, they have to rebuild.’ And all they do is replace them with Derryck Thornton, a McDonald’s All-American; [Brandon] Ingram, if he goes pro, will be the first or second chosen; Chase Jeter, Luke Kennard. When you face Duke, you know you’re going to face a great coach with great talent.”
UM beat Wake Forest 77-63 at home on Saturday and hopes to celebrate with the home fans again.
“I know our guys will be very fired up and [the] crowd should be very fired up,’’ Larrañaga said.
Monday: No. 15 UM men vs. No. 20 Duke
When/where: 7 p.m.; BankUnited Center.
TV/radio: ESPN; WQAM 560, WVUM 90.5 FM.
Records: Duke 15-5, 4-3 ACC; UM 15-3, 4-2.
Scouting report: Duke leads the series 17-4, but UM has won three of the past five meetings, including a 90-74 victory last January at Cameron Indoor Stadium. … The Blue Devils lead the conference with 9.4 three-pointers made per game and are fifth in the nation in scoring at 85.7 points per game.