With help from a guest speaker, Miami enhances its NCAA case
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) The seeds for Miami’s latest victory were planted more than six years ago, before Jim Larranaga was hired to lead the Hurricanes and long before any of the players on his current roster had even started their college careers.
It was Jan. 15, 2009, the day US Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed on the icy waters of the Hudson River in New York.
”I got the ultimate gift that day,” Ric Elias said.
He’s been sharing that gift ever since.
And the Hurricanes are among the beneficiaries.
Elias was a guest speaker at Miami’s shootaround Wednesday, hours before the Hurricanes would beat Virginia Tech 76-52 by simply overpowering the Hokies in the second half. It was the second time this season that he’s addressed the Hurricanes. They are 2-0 after those chats.
Elias was in Seat 1D on the flight that Capt. Chesley ”Sully” Sullenberger III somehow glided to a safe water landing after the plane’s engines were disabled by a flock of geese moments after takeoff. All 155 passengers and crew, Elias included, were rescued.
”I thought his message was very, very clear,” said Larranaga, in his fourth season as Miami’s coach. ”These opportunities only come along once in a lifetime. This one season, these games, and you’ve got to be prepared to be at your best. If you want to accomplish anything, you’ve got to really work for it, not only individually but as a team.”
He’s known Elias for about a decade now. So when Elias – who along with his partner Dan Feldstein operate a sales and marketing company called Red Ventures – texted Larranaga to say he would be in town for Wednesday’s game, the Hurricanes quickly took him up on an offer to talk to the team.
Clearly, they listened.
”Everybody had what he said in mind,” said forward Tonye Jekiri, who finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
So what did he say?
It’s important to know that Elias has plenty of basketball knowledge to share. He has a full-size court at his company’s headquarters. He’s a regular at Larranaga’s fantasy camps, which is how their relationship was forged. At 47, he can still play at a highly competitive level.
But with the Hurricanes coming into Wednesday just 8-9 in their previous 17 games, Elias decided to talk about luck.
”What you do with your good luck and what you do with your bad luck, that really defines your life,” Elias said. ”It’s something that I’ve kind of learned through my own experiences. Sometimes good luck seems like bad luck, and sometimes bad luck ends up being good luck.”
Win or go home, he kept saying. Win or go home. It’s the mantra teams use in their postseasons, though Elias thinks that it’s time for the Hurricanes – who are almost certainly on the NCAA Tournament bubble – to start taking that sort of philosophy into their final regular-season games.
He’s a Miami fan, and doesn’t want this team to have any regrets when the season ends.
”I got the chance to come back and live my life again,” Elias said. ”So the message that I tell them, the only thing I thought about for those 90 seconds was my regrets. I wasn’t scared of dying. My regrets, the energy I wasted on negative things, not staying focused on my main goal or main purpose at the time. That’s what I thought about.”
On Wednesday, after Elias spoke, the Hurricanes had no regrets.
It’s not an easy stretch run for Miami, which visits No. 12 Louisville on Saturday before wrapping up the league slate with Florida State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and another game with Virginia Tech.
Then comes the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, which might decide if Miami’s NCAA bubble bursts or not.
”They can play with anybody in the country,” Elias said. ”I told them, at the end of the day, you’ve got to have the mindset now that it’s win or go home.”
The approach worked Wednesday.