The greatest player in University of Miami basketball history has had his differences with the program.
But not anymore.
Hall of Famer Rick Barry, who led the nation in scoring as a Hurricanes senior in 1964-65 before going on to a star-studded pro career, is thrilled to see Miami ranked third in the nation.
“I’m happy for them,’’ Barry said in a phone interview. “What Jim (Larranaga, the team’s coach) is doing has been amazing. I don’t think anybody could have seen this coming but I envisioned that he would have success there. Hopefully, with this type of success (Miami) will be not just a football program but will also be able to sustain a basketball program.’’
Barry, though, hasn’t always been enamored with doings in Coral Gables. He was very dismayed when the program dropped basketball from 1971 until reinstating it in 1985. He was disappointed the school only gave him what he calls a “token interview’’ in 2000 to be Miami’s head coach. And he believes the Hurricanes erred by not recruiting three of his sons who all went on to play in the NBA.
Barry, who was on campus from 1961-65, averaged 37.4 points and 18.3 rebounds as a senior while being a first-team All-American and then being taken with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft. But just six years later the school, citing inadequate facilities, poor attendance and financial losses, eliminated basketball.
“I was so disappointed,’’ said Barry, 68, who retired from the NBA in 1980 and is now a businessman and financial adviser in Colorado Springs. “I couldn’t believe that a major university would drop basketball. It was ridiculous. I went on TV shows for them to keep it, but it didn’t do any good.’’
Barry had no real ties with the school after the basketball program had been shuttered. But they resumed when basketball was reinstated for the 1985-86 season, and Barry said he was on hand for the first game back.
After some lean years, the Hurricanes finally made the NCAA tournament three straight times from 1998 through 2000 under Leonard Hamilton before he bolted to the Washington Wizards. Barry then was hoping Miami’s success would continue under him.
“I was disappointed that I wanted to get into coaching there and it was basically a token interview,’’ said Barry, who then was coaching in the minor leagues and believes then-athletic director and now-deceased Paul Dee only interviewed him due to media pressure. “They didn’t owe me anything but when Paul Dee came out and the first thing he said was that he really wanted somebody with previous college coaching experience (which Barry didn’t have), I was wondering why he even was here.’’
Barry, who has expressed dismay for years about not getting coaching opportunities, believes he would have won at Miami.
“Of course, I would have turned things around,’’ Barry said.
Actually, Hamilton already had turned the program around. But Hurricanes hoops took a step back under Perry Clark, who was hired from Tulane in 2000 and eventually fired after going 65-54 in four seasons.
“Clifford Ray (a former NBA center) was ready to be my assistant to coach the big men and I had talked to Norm Van Lier (a former NBA guard who is now deceased) about coning out to work with the guards,’’ Barry, who won an NBA title at Golden State with Ray in 1975, said of what he would have done had he been named Hurricanes coach in 2000. “Players could have come (to Miami) and we’ll show you the pro style and teach you how to play in the pros.’’
Barry tutelage’s certainly didn’t hurt in three of his sons making the NBA. Jon, who played at Georgia Tech was a pro from 1992-2006, Brent, who attended Oregon State, was one from 1995-2009, and Drew, who also went to Georgia Tech, played in the NBA from 1997-2000. Barry’s oldest son, Scooter, didn’t make the NBA, but played overseas after helping Kansas win the 1988 NCAA title.
Scooter got out of high school when Miami’s program was in hiatus. But Barry said Miami never recruited any of his three sons who made the NBA.
“It was kind of foolish,’’ Barry said. “It was pretty unbelievable. But it was their loss. Still, it was kind of bizarre. Why in the world would you not recruit the sons of somebody whose jersey is hanging from the rafters at the school?’’
Barry denies he’s had any friction over the years with his alma mater. But it can’t be questioned there have been differences in thinking.
“Rick wasn’t there much,’’ Miami Heat guard James Jones said of when he starred for the Hurricanes from 1999-2003. “The program was in transition… I don’t know much about (Barry’s historical relationship with the school), but I know that he’s still the greatest Hurricane to ever come through the program, and I would hope and think that there would always be a spot for him in the hearts and the minds of the Miami Hurricanes.’’
As far as Barry is concerned, it didn’t hurt that Larranaga recruited his latest basketball-playing son. Canyon is his fifth son and first with his second wife, Lynn. Larranaga visited the Barry home in the fall of 2011 during Canyon’s senior year at Cheyenne Mountain High School.
Barry said Larranga didn’t end up having an available scholarship but Canyon had the opportunity to attend the school on an academic scholarship. He eventually decided instead to sign with the College of Charleston.
The Cougars then were coached by Bobby Cremins, who had both Jon and Drew at Georgia Tech. And Barry said the pressure of following in the footsteps of his father at Miami also played a role in Canyon not choosing the Hurricanes.
“Jim was nice enough to come out and we had a good talk,’’ Barry said.
With College of Charleston having an upcoming series of games against Miami, Barry said he’ll then be rooting for the Cougars. Otherwise, it’s all Hurricanes for him.
“They don’t have a lottery pick on the team but they’ve got a lot of guys who can play and they’ve got a lot of experience,’’ Barry said of Larranga’s second season at the school. “They’ve got a lot of confidence. They believe in what Jim is telling them. There’s no reason they can’t sustain the success. You’ve got to first have a proven winner but that’s what they have now.’’
Barry hasn’t been to a game at Miami for a few years. He had hoped to attend last Saturday’s game against North Carolina for an event involving some members of the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame but ended up having a schedule conflict.
If Barry has a chance to catch a Hurricanes game in the NCAA tournament, he will. He’s much more excited about the basketball program than he has been at times before.