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Jim Larranaga Downplays Rift With Tom O'Connor, Says Miami Basketball Began Courting Him April 11

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."

Larranaga also admitted that VCU's decision to keep Shaka Smart and pay him a reported $1.2 million per season changed the game for him and any other mid-major coach.
"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.
Finally, Larranaga encouraged his former George Mason players to stick with it for whoever becomes the program's new head coach.

"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