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George Mason's hiring of Paul Hewitt to replace Jim Larranaga seems like the safe and proper move on paper, but was it really the right one?
New George Mason basketball coach Paul Hewitt was introduced in a press conference on Monday afternoon, his first public comments since being named the Patriots' basketball coach on Saturday. Hewitt, of course, replaces Jim Larranaga, a beloved figure locally who bolted to Miami after 14 years in Fairfax.
During his remarks, Hewitt stressed the importance of maintaining as much continuity as possible, given the Patriots' success last season and all their returning players. He said he told the players that it was important to "keep the culture you guys established."
"This year, it's important we maintain some sense of continuity. When you win 27 games, you don't want to change too much," he said.
Hewitt said he began the process the Tuesday before he was hired, and met with University president Alan Merten on Thursday before deciding to take the job. He said he "traded one paradise for another," referencing a planned vacation to St. Martin's over the weekend that had to get canceled, and added that this was the only job he would have considered after being fired from Georgia Tech.
Hewitt added that he will "take his time" filling out his coaching staff, and said he plans to recruit as vigorously as ever.
"We want to win and we want to win big. I don't think there's any reason why we should take a backseat to anyone." "The one thing I feel very confident we can do is, we're going to be able to recruit."
He added that he talked to Larranaga briefly and will speak with him again later.
Athletic Director Tom O'Connor said he was looking for a "good communicator" first and foremost, and that he feels he has that in Hewitt.
(Quotes via the GoMason.com live stream).
The George Mason Patriots have made a very surprising hire in the wake of losing longtime coach Jim Larranaga to the University of Miami. Paul Hewitt, the former Georgia Tech head coach that was fired earlier this winter, has verbally accepted the job, according to FOX Sports' Jeff Goodman.
Paul Hewitt will replace Jim Larranaga at George Mason.
Hewitt, who was let go at Georgia Tech in March, interviewed for the job earlier in the week and verbally accepted the offer on Saturday, multiple industry sources told FOXSports.com.
It's a very surprising hire because Hewitt has been labeled an underachieving coach for not having a lot of success at Georgia Tech since reaching the Final Four in 2004. He is certainly an outstanding recruiter, but has had trouble translating that to results on the court. Georgia Tech also elected to fire him despite owing him a significant amount of money if they did so. Nevertheless, he did have a 190-162 record in 11 seasons at Georgia Tech, and he certainly brings a big-conference reputation to the school.
George Mason is expected to be a very good team next year, losing only Cam Long from their main rotation.
Jim Larranaga departing George Mason for the University of Miami seems like a simple case of an employee/employer relationship ending, something that happens every day in the world.
Former George Mason basketball coach and current Miami basketball head coach Jim Larranaga joined "The Sports Junkies" on 106.7 The Fan, making his first public comments locally since accepting the Miami job on Friday. Larranaga said he began talking to Miami on April 11 and did everything he could to shoot down the reports that he had a rift with George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor.
Larranaga sort of sidestepped the O'Connor question several times, before finally answering "No" when asked whether his relationship with O'Connor was like the notoriously rocky one between Maryland's Gary Williams and former AD Debbie Yow.
"The fact of the matter is, I loved George Mason. I loved working at the University. I love the friendships my wife and I have been able to develop. I loved living close to my son and his family," Larranaga said. "... But now, I have an opportunity to do something different, and I'm excited about it. I've invited my coaching staff to join me, and I'm just looking forward. I'm not looking back."
Larranaga said he expected this to be his final coaching job, though he added that he expected George Mason would be his last job too. He also admitted that University President Alan Merten's decision to step down after 2012 was a factor in his decision to bolt to Miami. Larranaga has had a very close relationship with Merten over the years.
"He called me and informed me of his decision. At that point in time, I had never even considered anything else," Larranaga admitted." But with that being said, the Miami situation hadn't materialized either."
"In my mind, one of the things that does is it sends a message to all CAA school and all mid-Major schools who want to compete at a high level that there's going to be a demand on coaches that are going to accomplish those things," he said.
"I left a great group of guys, and it's very, very hard to leave them. But they know, after winning the regular-season title this year that in all the ridiculously early preseason polls, they're in the Top 25. So the cupboard is not bare, and the run will continue."
You can listen to the entire interview here.
The Jim Larranaga press conference was held today as the former George Mason head coach took to the podium at 7 p.m. to accept his new position at the University of Miami as well as take questions from the assembled media.
"Jim is a man of great character who will be a first class ambassador for the University of Miami, this athletic department and the basketball program," Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst said while introducing Larranaga at Friday's press conference and allowing the coach of George Mason for the past 14 years to head up to the stage.
"I'm very excited to be here," Larranaga began with a smile. "There's no question about that."
"I would like to begin by telling you that the last 14 years of my life have been wonderful. GMU is a great institution," Larranaga said. "The players I leave behind at George Mason are an incredible group of young men. When I told those players I was going to become the head of the U, everyone hugged me and wished me well and I would do the same for them."
During his opening remarks, Larranaga also mentioned that Florida is a hotbed for talented basketball players, noting that two of the five George Mason starters this season -- Cam Long and Mike Morrison -- came from Florida.
Though Larranaga looked back at his days with George Mason to begin the press conference, he also looked forward to his days with the Hurricanes.
"This opportunity is very important for me. I have a set of beliefs that is best described with a quote from Confucius: Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life," Larranaga said. "That's what I did! I came to Miami because it's a great opportunity. It's our opportunity now to get behind the program and do something very special."
Most surprisingly was the amount of talent Larranaga believes Miami has after the team went 21-15 last season while finishing their with a loss in the third round of the NIT Tournament.
"I'm leaving behind a preseason Top 25 team," Larranaga said. "But I wouldn't have left if I didn't feel we had that caliber of talent already at the U."
While taking questions from the media, Larranaga was asked why now? Why after 14 years at George Mason would a 61-year-old head coach take the Hurricanes job after leading the Patriots to quite a few respectable seasons.
In Larranaga's trademark style, he said "I'm crazy. I love a challenge. I love great opportunties and I love to be around great leaders."
Now that Jim Larranaga has officially left George Mason to take over the Miami basketball coaching job, more information is trickling out about what exactly caused him to leave the job he dutifully kept for 14 years. Part of it clearly is money, given that Larranaga is expected to earn double what he earned at George Mason. But it appears part of it might have been a conflict with his boss, athletic director Tom O'Connor.
In his press conference announcing the move, O'Connor said the two had a "terrific relationship." But a source tells Steven Goff of the Washington Post that wasn't exactly the case.
Since the Patriots' season ended, Larranaga and George Mason had been engaged in talks concerning a contract extension, university officials said. Larranaga also had conversations regarding improved contracts for his staff and enhancements to facilities at the school, and the talks between Larranaga and O'Connor at times got contentious, sources said.
The source said that "the relationship wasn't good" and "everybody knew it." Goff also notes that Larranaga was very close to outgoing president Alan G. Merten, and his decision to step down at the end of the 2012 year affected Larranaga's thinking.
It's now officially official. Jim Larranaga has been named Miami's new basketball coach, leaving George Mason after 14 years on the job. Miami has sent out a press release announcing the move just a few minutes ago. Larranaga will be formally introduced at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, according to the release.
"Coach Larranaga is the real deal," said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala in the press release. "He's a winner, an inspirational leader, and he cares deeply about his players and staff. We're delighted to welcome him and his wife as the newest members of the Miami Hurricane family."
The press conference will be streamed live on HurricaneSports.com. George Mason, meanwhile, will hold their own press conference at 3:45 p.m. today, athletic director Tom O'Connor announced.
Larranaga will become the 12th coach at Miami in its history. The school fired Frank Haith after a disappointing NIT performance last season.
It's pretty much official at this point: Jim Larranaga will be leaving George Mason to become the head basketball coach at the University of Miami. George Mason athletic director Tom O'Conner confirmed to the Washington Post that Larranaga is indeed leaving. Via Steven Goff:
George Mason Athletic Director Tom O'Connor tells me Jim Larranaga has accepted Miami's offer to become its basketball coach
Larranaga leaves with a career 273-164 overall record at George Mason, including 13 consecutive winning seasons. He had been talking with George Mason about a possible contract extension since the end of last season, but was unsatisfied with the talks, according to the Washington Post.
Since the Patriots' season ended, Larranaga and George Mason had been engaged in talks concerning a contract extension, university officials said. He also had conversations regarding improved contracts for his staff, sources said.
"It's not about the money," one source said Thursday. "It's about showing a little love."
This somewhat contradicts the point of view of CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, who first broke the story. Parrish wrote that money was indeed the most important factor in Larranaga's decision. He is expected to make over $1 million annually at Miami, which is about double his current base salary of just over $525,000. Larranaga made about $700,000 with incentives last season.
Jim Larranaga has indeed decided to leave George Mason and become the head coach at the University of Miami. CBS Sports' Gary Parrish is reporting that he has agreed to a contract in principle and will officially be announced as the new Miami head coach shortly.
The move is a shocking one locally because Larranaga has turned down offers from high-major programs arguably more prestigious than Miami in the past. However, talks with Miami advanced throughout the day Thursday, and evidently it is happening.
Larranaga's new deal with Miami is expected to be worth over $1 million annually, according to Parish. Larranaga was paid just over $700,000 this season, according to a USA Today report. That was the most in the CAA until VCU gave Shaka Smart a new contract that pays him $1.2 million per season. There were reports that Larranaga was not pleased that his assistant coaches did not receive raises on their salaries.
George Mason will now likely have to open up a national search to find a replacement for Larranaga. Larranaga coached the Patriots for 14 seasons, garnering a winning record 13 times and reaching five NCAA Tournaments. Whoever takes over for Larranaga will have a loaded team next season, with four returning starters and only one key departure in Cam Long.
Jim Larranaga is reportedly ready to accept the head coaching position at the University of Miami. According to Brian Mull of Star News Online, there were a few factors that led to Larranaga's departure from George Mason.
A source I spoke to Thursday afternoon said Larranaga, 61, was unsatisfied with the salary package for his assistant coaches and also wanted to make sure George Mason continued its commitment to basketball on par with the other elite schools in the Colonial Athletic Association.
George Mason is one of the few elite teams in the CAA that either doesn't have a practice facility at all, or is at least in the process of constructing one. That lack of commitment is likely one of the reasons that Larranaga decided to seriously consider other opportunities. It is also worth noting that Larranaga is slated to make twice as much at Miami than he made while he was at George Mason; one of the perks of moving up into a power conference I suppose.
After guiding George Mason to a school best 25-5 and a 16-game winning streak, it seems like Jim Larranaga might be on his way out. According to Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald, Larranaga is likely to accept the head coaching position at the University of Miami.
George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor granted Larranaga permission to speak to UM officials, according to the school’s spokeswoman, Maureen Nasser, and sources said the two sides were close to reaching a deal on Thursday night. He is scheduled to fly to Miami Friday to meet with UM president Donna Shalala and other school officials. Pending their approval, he will likely be hired.
It's been a wild 24 hours in Fairfax. George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who has spurned offers from power-conference programs in the past, seemed very close to taking the Miami basketball job. However, according to CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, Larranaga has still not made up his mind.
There was a New York Post report indicating that Larranaga was meeting with his players Thursday night, which would have indicated a move was coming. However, Parish and FOX Sports' Jeff Goodman have both denied that meeting too place.
Still, it looks like Larranaga could very well be making the switch. Goodman reports that while the deal is not done, it "very well" could happen. There was also a report that several of Larranaga's assistant coaches are looking for new jobs, a further indication that there is a legitimate chance Larranaga switches jobs.
Larranaga, 61, has built George Mason into one of the premier mid-major programs, and has turned down jobs in the past to stay in Fairfax. He signed a new contract last March that would have kept him in Fairfax through the 2015/16 season.
Maybe Jim Larranaga is truly interested in leaving George Mason to fill the Miami basketball head coaching vacancy. He has received permission from the Patriots to talk to Miami, according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post.
George Mason granted Miami permission to talk to Jim Larranaga about its men's basketball coaching vacancy, a Patriots spokeswoman said Thursday.
Athletic Director Tom O'Connor did not speak directly with officials from the Atlantic Coast Conference school but did allow the sides to talk, said Maureen Nasser, associate athletic director for communications.
This is a possible sign that Larranaga is considering taking the job, which would be a surprise because he has consistently turned down overtures from other power-conference programs to remain at George Mason. The possibility that he is using Miami as leverage to receive a more lucrative contract from George Mason must also be considered. Larranaga made just over $700,000 last season and is under contract through the 2015/16 season.
George Mason coach Jim Larranaga has long been considered to be a mid-major lifer that would never leave for a power-conference program. However, in a bit of a surprise, Larranaga is in "serious discussions" with University of Miami officials to potentially become the school's next head coach, according to a report by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.
Parrish reports that Larranaga has emerged as Miami's "top target," though it remains unclear whether Larranaga is interested in simply leveraging a more lucrative contract out of George Mason. Larranaga did sign a contract extension last March that would keep him in Fairfax through the 2015/16 season. He made just over $700,000 last season, according to a USA Today report.
Miami fired Frank Haith this winter, and are an ACC team, so it would technically be a step up for Larranaga. However, he has turned down offers from power-conference schools in the past, most notably when Providence came calling several years ago.
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