Experience matters, apparently.
Two of the hottest men’s basketball teams in town in this post-LeBron era belong to the Division I Miami Hurricanes and the Division II Barry Buccaneers.
Both programs are run by 65-year-old coaches — Jim Larrañaga at Miami and Butch Estes at Barry — and both are relying in large part on transfers for their success.
In addition, both programs are nationally ranked in their respective divisions — Miami is 15th and Barry 20th — and undefeated.
The Hurricanes are starting three transfers: guards Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State), Sheldon McClellan (Texas) and forward Joe Thomas (Niagara).
Junior-college transfer Ivan Cruz Uceda could be a starter once he is eligible in January, perhaps at the expense of Thomas, and former Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy will be ready for next season.
Rodriguez and McClellan are the Canes’ two best players, and Cruz Uceda and Murphy are expected to make major impacts.
Barry, meanwhile, has nine transfers on its rosters. Of its top eight players in the rotation, seven are transfers.
Among Barry’s transfers are guards Juan Ferrales and Deric Hill, both from FIU, and Anders Haas (Albany). Frontcourt transfers include Jevoni Robinson (North Carolina State), Tray Leonard (Fordham) and Yunio Barrueta (East Tennessee State).
“That’s the trend now in college basketball — there are more transfers available than ever before,” Estes said. “And in Division II, we have an advantage in that transfers don’t have to sit out a year. They are eligible right away.”
Estes, a former University of Miami assistant, added that he and Larrañaga know each other very well. They met decades ago when Larrañaga was an assistant at Virginia.
“It’s a ‘wow’ factor,” Estes said referring to Larrañaga’s efforts at Miami. “What he’s done has been impressive.
“I think one advantage that experienced coaches have is that we have more confidence in handling different player personalities. A younger coach may not be as flexible.”
MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
For the second time in less than a year, one of MDC’s five athletic teams finished second in the country.
Last spring, it was the baseball team that made a surprising run only to come up one win short in the Junior College World Series at Grand Junction, Colorado.
This past Saturday, it was the women’s volleyball team, which lost in the final at Casper, Wyoming. Blinn, a volleyball power from Texas, won its second national title in a row, beating MDC 33-31, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18.
Still, it was MDC’s first trip to the 16-team national tournament since 2011. And the second-place finish was its best since 2007.
“When you fight so hard and lose a set like that first one, sometimes it can get the team down emotionally,” said MDC coach Kiko Benoit, whose team finished the season with a 30-4 record. “But we had a great season — I’m really happy.”