It seems to be in the DNA of the sports fan, more than it is human nature in general, to complain. Or maybe it’s that dissatisfaction tends to be broadcast voluminously, while appreciation is whispered.
And so the flames crackle and rise around Al Golden and the University of Miami football program, emitting angry noise and acrid smoke that would cast a net of negativity across the campus.
I look for a mute button, for fresh air, for perspective. I want to be away from that dark place at UM where disenchanted fans are ruled by impatience and sour pessimism is the default emotion.
I think I found it. Basketball.
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While football hijacks the conversation in Coral Gables, it is too easy to overlook that Jim Larrañaga men’s basketball program and Katie Meier’s women fly high, solo and in tandem.
Two great coaches at the top of their game, leading two buoyant seasons that could see both in their respective NCAA Tournament together for only the third time school history.
UM hoops have never had a week like the one just past. The Canes men won at No. 4-ranked Duke on Tuesday night to end that storied program’s 41-game home winning streak. Five days earlier the UM women beat No. 4 Notre Dame here to end that team’s 30-game road win streak.
“A 71-game snap!” as Meier put it Wednesday.
Now Larrañaga’s guys are 12-4 and 3-1 against ranked teams with the only loss in double-overtime. They next play Saturday at No. 12 Notre Dame, and a win surely would catapult Miami into the Top 25.
The Canes women are 13-3, have won five in a row and also are poised to enter the Top 25. They play Clemson here Thursday, then Sunday at No. 16 Duke, Meier’s alma mater.
UM’s track record on coaching hires is not above criticism, with Golden at the epicenter. But there is no question that, in basketball, Miami struck gold, twice.
Meier, now in her 10th season here, was The Associated Press national coach of the year in 2011. Larrañaga, who is in his fourth season, earned the same honor in 2013.
I asked Larrañaga on Wednesday what it felt like to hand Duke and “Coach K” a rare home loss and shut up the Cameron Crazies. He recalled a conversation with son Jay (now a Celtics assistant) from 2011, after he had been offered the Miami job but before accepting it. It had been Larrañaga’s dream to coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference, so leaving George Mason for here was enticing.
“My son said, ‘Man, you know how much fun it’s going to be coaching games at Duke and Carolina!’ I said, ‘Hey, it’s only fun if you win.’ ”
In 2013 Larrañaga guided Miami to the ACC championship and into the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen for the only time other than in 2000. That team was led by Shane Larkin; this one has a similar point-guard spark plug in Angel Rodriguez, one of nine new players on a roster with only one senior.
The future is bright. The present ain’t bad, either.
Larrañaga is 65 now but too busy to think about retiring. Too many dreams left.
“Our goal is to win a national championship,” he puts it plain. “We’re working toward that. We’re laying a foundation. Still evolving. [Tuesday] night was a glimpse of what our potential is.”
Meier has her own leader in Adrienne Motley, who scored 32 in the upset of Notre Dame. If they need a goal, I’d mention that UM has only reached the women’s Sweet Sixteen once, in 1992.
Meier is appreciative Miami stuck with her through three straight losing season in 2007-09, when impatience might have taken over.
“There were really low, dark times, like, ‘What have I done?’ ” she said.
Meier also endured a personal tragedy this summer when a nephew was killed in an auto accident.
Those things lend to an appreciation of life. Meier has a personal motto: “Celebrate to Elevate.”
“Anxiety doesn’t exist in the moment. We have anxiety over something that has happened in the past or might happen in the future,” she said. “We need to stay in the moment, and look around with gratitude and positivity.”
Canes football fans would tell you that’s a mighty challenge.
UM basketball, men and women’s, makes it easy.