Aside from the days of Rick Barry and rise of the Leonard Hamilton coached ‘Canes squads toward the end of his Dr. Frankenstein-like resuscitation . . .
. . . we’ve had some tough terrain to negotiate.
Perry Clark initially had success with a pre-fabricated roster, much like Larry Coker in football, but then it fell apart like a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle tossed from the lip of the Grand Canyon. Next up was Frank Haith. Currently, Coach Haith is blazing a trail across the country, a flight pattern analogous to . . .
What’s the point of rehashing the Ghosts of Coaches Past? Miami Basketball hasn’t been this stable since the days of Coach Ham. ‘Canes hoops is reaching for an equilibrium point – and starts with Coach Jim Larranaga. Coach Larranaga is in his 4th season as skipper of ‘Canes round-ball and this is the first where he has recruited all of the players on the squad. This is not a condemnation of Coach’s Haith’s recruiting acumen. Haith did an excellent job recruiting great kids with a lot of talent. It just never came together.
There was no equilibrium. Here are some examples of the balance Jedi-master Larranaga has brought to the program.
What do Shane Larkin, Manu Lecomte, Angel Rodriguez, and freshman Ja’Quan Newton all have in common? They are all true point guards. Equilibrium on the court starts with the point guard position, something we have not had an abundance of over the years. Rodriguez has been spell-binding. Lecomte seems to make just about every shot he takes. Newton, the highly-touted PG prospect looks like he’s got the potential to develop into a star.
Roster balance: Front court. Even though the ‘Canes are lacking some front-court depth (junior Ivan Cruz Uceda comes back for ACC play) this season, Kamari Murphy, a big man from Oklahoma State will be ready to go after a one-year transfer hiatus. He will be a junior. So far, freshman Omar Sherman has been impressive, showing some rebounding chops and a smooth touch from beyond the arc. Tonye Jekiri has been excellent in the early going and he will be going into his senior year next year. While the frontcourt talent assembled will be enough for the ‘Canes to battle it out with the rest of their ACC foes, next year it could be downright scary in terms of depth and talent.
Roster balance: Back court. There is no dearth of backcourt talent on this roster – currently or far into the future. As previously mentioned, the ‘Canes are loaded at point guard. They’re also loaded at the 2-guard and wing slots as well. Junior Sheldon McClellan, Sophomore Davon Reed, Freshman Deandre Burnett, Freshman James Palmer, and next season’s only recruit Anthony Lawrence. That’s a lot of offensive firepower, now and into the future.
X's and O’s: Larranaga. I don’t want to beat the horse to death, but Coach Larranaga is clearly the best pure X’s and O’s coach we’ve ever had at Miami. He’s a perpetual flood looking for cracks in the dam to exploit. The more pieces he has to work with, the better the results – and he’s stockpiling a lot of pieces. Looking back at last season, Coach L – a tried and true man-to-man guy – went to the zone with a roster depleted due to graduation and injury. In all honesty, that was the best zone defense by far I’ve ever seen at Miami. And that’s after watching the zone from a zone-specialist from 2004-2011. Against Drexel, Coach went into his toolbox and yanked out the Box-and-1. It’s amazing to watch how he adjusts during the game. His teams also seem stronger coming out of the halftime break. Over his lengthy career Coach Larranaga has seen just about every permutation possible in basketball. He is as stabilizing a force in college basketball as there is.
It's hard not to imagine big things for Miami Basketball over the next several years. Looking far into the future through our SOTU crystal ball, it is safe to assume that when Coach Larranaga decides to hang up his high-tops, he will leave the program in much better shape than when he took the job. If there is one thing we can all do to make this a reality, it would be to show up at the games. Bring a friend or two. Unlike massive Sun Life Stadium, the BUC holds approximately 8,000 people. For the stable brand of basketball Coach Larranaga has brought to Miami, there shouldn’t be tons of empty seats.