George Mason is a pretty special mid-major program, and Jim Larranaga is a pretty special mid-major coach (or, really, coach in any way). I was reminded of these facts when reading Les Carpenter's spectacular profile of Larranaga on The Post Game on Yahoo! Sports. The whole thing is worth the read, but the part that got me was this:
Larranaga calls this play "three" and drawn out on paper it must look so confusing with its array of options: Curls across the top, passes down to the two big men below, a drive and layup underneath. But as the mighty Connecticut Huskies lunged at George Mason that afternoon in 2006, Larranaga did something few coaches would have the stomach to try. He shouted "run three," with about 10:00 left in the game and then after watching his players score a basket, he never took it off for the rest of regulation and all over overtime until the Mason players were dancing on the floor, trimming the nets and heading to a Final Four that UConn, the No. 1 seed, seemed to treat as a birthright.
Yes, you read that correctly: Larranaga called the same exact play on every single possession for the last ten minutes of regulation and overtime. Somehow, Connecticut didn't stop it enough.
How many possessions are we talking about here? Carpenter reports that Larranaga ultimately called the play 25 times in a row. Twenty-five times in a row. Sorry, I was just putting that in there for extra emphasis.
Also, Larranaga said he's already printed Final Four shirts for this year's team, even though they face a second-round matchup against Ohio State and potential games against North Carolina, Syracuse or Kentucky if they somehow win that. The shirts say the phrase that many of us in the sportswriting industry have been repeating over the past few weeks.
And on the back is printed the answer to the question that arises every year now from those wondering who that year's surprise Final Four team will be...
"We are this year's George Mason," they say.
Yup, classic Larranaga.