Larranaga taking over at Miami

Jim Larranaga has taken the Miami Hurricanes’ basketball job after 14 years at George Mason, including an improbable run to the Final Four in 2006.

George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor said Larranaga called Friday morning to say he accepted Miami’s offer.

Jeff Goodman of reported the news earlier on Friday.

Larranaga, 61, led the Patriots to five NCAA tournament berths and went 273-164, setting a school record for victories. This season his team went 27-7 and reached the third round of the tournament before losing to Ohio State.

Now he moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference, where the Hurricanes were 43-69 the past seven seasons under Frank Haith.

”Jim can coach at any level,” O’Connor said. ”He could probably coach the Los Angeles Lakers if he wanted to.”

The hiring was made by Shawn Eichorst only nine days after he became the Hurricanes’ athletic director.

"Coach Larranaga is the real deal," said University of Miami president Donna E. Shalala. "He’s a winner, an inspirational leader, and he cares deeply about his players and staff. We’re delighted to welcome him and his wife as the newest members of the Miami Hurricane family."

Haith left for Missouri after going 129-101 at Miami, including 21-15 this past season.

Larranaga’s contract at George Mason, which ran until 2016, had a base salary of $525,000. The school offered him a package including incentive bonuses would that have put him in the top five among mid-major coaches in compensation, O’Connor said, but even that deal couldn’t compete with Miami’s resources.

Unlike the Hurricanes, George Mason does not have a football program.

”In all honesty, the university can only go so far with finances,” O’Connor said. ”We think we put together a very, very attractive financial compensation package. We couldn’t compete with an ACC school, a big football school with its budget.”

The improbable NCAA tournament run by Larranaga’s team in 2006 was a triumph for all mid-major programs. George Mason beat Michigan State, North Carolina and second-seeded Connecticut before losing to Florida in the national semifinals at Indianapolis.

He also led the Patriots to the tournament in 1999, 2001 and 2008. Miami made the tournament once under Haith, losing in the second round in 2008.

Small crowds have been a chronic problem for the Hurricanes, who compete in a market that includes all four major professional sports. Attendance at George Mason was a big problem when Larranaga arrived but improved substantially, especially after the run to the Final Four.

O’Connor said George Mason’s search for a replacement would start immediately.

”I’m confident we can attract a very strong basketball coach,” O’Connor said.