The season is over, but the awards keep coming for University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larrañaga. The school might have to build a new trophy case for his office.
Larrañaga on Thursday was named The Associated Press Coach of the Year. He received the award in Atlanta, where he is attending the Final Four this weekend. The UM coach received 29 votes from a 65-member national media panel. Jim Crews of Saint Louis got 19 votes, and Mark Few of Gonzaga had 11.
In his second season at UM, Larrañaga led the Hurricanes to a school-best 29-7 record, the school’s first Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they reached the Sweet 16 before being eliminated by Marquette.
This Miami team reached a school-high No. 2 in the AP rankings and was the first to beat a No. 1 when it toppled Duke by 27 points. The Canes also beat North Carolina three times and became the first team to beat the Blue Devils and Tar Heels by 25-plus points in the same season.
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Larrañaga is the first UM coach to win the award and the first ACC coach to get it since Roy Williams of North Carolina in 2006. Larrañaga said this award is the heaviest he has ever received, and particularly meaningful. He dedicated it to his high school coach Jack Curran, who died a few weeks ago.
“I had the greatest mentor in Jack Curran,’’ Larrañaga said by phone Thursday afternoon. “He taught me everything I needed to know to be a coach. He was a great friend and a true inspiration. He would be very, very proud of me for winning this award.’’
He said Curran was humble, caring, and “would bend over backward to help everybody, even people who didn’t like him.’’
Curran’s attention to basketball fundamentals is something Larrañaga carries on, and he said it is a big reason the Hurricanes were a much-improved team this year.
“He focused on doing the little things well, and said, `If you can’t do the little things well, you’ll never get a chance to do the big things,’’’ Larrañaga said. “He was all about discipline and routine. Our practices ran like clockwork. His teaching method was all about mastering the fundamentals. Passing correctly, rebounding correctly, shooting and defending correctly. I try to do the same, and me and my staff have developed routines that have helped our players become more successful.’’
Larrañaga has had many career highlights, including leading George Mason to the 2006 Final Four. He described this season as “by far the most challenging’’ in his four decades of coaching.
“It was just our second year here, competing in the ACC against the best teams in the nation,’’ he said. “Having to face Duke twice, North Carolina three times, FSU twice, and we put together a top five nonconference schedule, so this was by far the most challenging schedule I have ever coached. It made it very rewarding because of how well we did dealing with those challenges.’’
Larrañaga will spend the next two days attending coach meetings and banquets. He will also watch Hurricanes guard Durand Scott play Friday in a senior all-star game.