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Jim Larrañaga: Everything you need to know about the University of Miami basketball coach

‘Coach L’ is no stranger to the NCAA March Madness tournament. The Bronx native has experience in the ‘Big Dance’ and the Final Four. He has led his team to U. of Miami’s first ever appearance in the Final Four.

Joseph McMahon
Joseph McMahon
‘Coach L’ is no stranger to the NCAA March Madness tournament. The Bronx native has experience in the ‘Big Dance’ and the Final Four. He has led his team to U. of Miami’s first ever appearance in the Final Four.
William PurnellUSA TODAY Sports

Getting here hasn’t been easy as the Hurricanes have had to face (12) Drake in the first round 63-56, then they pulled off their first upset beating (4) Indiana 85 - 69. Their last game versus no. 1-seed Houston was an 89-75 victory against one of the tournament favorites. The Hurricanes overcame a second half 13-point deficit to go on and beat no. 2-seed Texas 88-81.

Beginnings in college basketball coaching

Jim Larrañaga has been coaching college basketball teams since 1971 when he graduated from Davidson College and got a job as assistant coach under Terry Holland. After five years there he went abroad and got a player-coach job in Belgium for the Geronemo Basketball Club, which only lasted a year.

In 1977 he got his first head coaching job at American International College, where he went on to a 28-25 record in his two years there before rejoining Terry Holland at the University of Virginia. In 1981 ‘Coach L’ got his first taste of the NCAA Final Four as assistant coach in 1981 and 1984 and was part of the staff that coached Ralph Sampson and Olden Polynice.

Bowling Green State University 1986 - 1997

Larrañaga was named head coach of the BGSU basketball program in 1986, where he made an immediate impact leading the Falcons to a 15-14 record. The eight-game improvement gave BGSU the distinction of being the nations’s most improved team. In his 11 years with the Falcons Larrañaga had a 170-144 record.

His most successful year came in 1997 when he gained a berth in the NIT tournament with a 22-10 record and was named the 1997 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year. Before leaving Ohio in 1997 Larrañanga coached Falcon notables, Antonio Daniels, Anthony Stacey and his own son, Jay Larrañanga, who went on to play professionally in Europe and was assistant coach for the Boston Celtics (2012-2021) and is currently on the Los Angeles clippers coaching staff.

George Mason University 1997 - 2011

Larrañaga led George Mason to the NCAA Tournament five times. In 1999, 2001, 2008 and 2011, but it was the university’s run to the Final Four in 2006 that brought national attention to the program and its coach.

He was named the 2006 Clair Bee National Coach of the year and went on to win more games than any coach at Geroge Mason and in the Colonial Athletic Association, which the Patriots won in 1999, 2001 and 2008. Larrañaga made a name for himself as a winning coach, but also as a player motivator and led his teams to memorable comebacks such as their 61-57 victory of Villanova after trailing by double digits in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

In 2006 the Patriots finished with a 27-8 record and were ranked no. 8 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. His teams had similar characteristics over the years, such as their high offensive performance and tough defense, which was known as the “Scramble.”

University of Miami 2011 - present

Larrañaga accepted the head coaching position in Miami after his successful stint at George Mason. In his second season he led the University of Miami to an ACC regular season title. That year the Hurricanes beat no.1-ranked Duke 90-63, the first-ever defeat of a top-ranked team by the Hurricanes.

In 2013 ‘Coach L’ led the University of Miami to its first Men’s basketball ACC tournament title in the program’s history by beating North Carolina 87-77. He was named the Associated Press college basketball coach of the year. The Hurricanes went on to the Sweet 16 where they lost to Marquette.

The University of Miami have beat Duke seven times and North Carolina seven as well under Larrañaga. Before he arrived in Miami, the team had gone 4-31 against those two powerhouses. Coach Larrañaga has led the Hurricanes to five March Madness appearances including this year’s impressive run to the Elite Eight.

The Miami Hurricanes (no. 5) will take on the UConn Huskies (no. 4) Saturday, April 1 at 5:49 p.m.

Footnote: Coach L was born on Oct. 2, 1949 in the Bronx, N.Y. He is married to Liz and has two sons Jay and Jon and four grandchildren: Tia, James, Jon and Henry. Larrañaga’s ancestry is Basque. His grandfather was born in Cuba to parents who were originally from Northern Spain.