“Coming back then, trying to decide, OK, where should I go, coming back to Florida, he had familiarity with us. He might have looked at a couple of other schools in the state, but I think we were probably the one he was most interested in. It kind of just worked out for both of us, I think. It’s a great fit for him and definitely a great fit for us.”
So far, it’s been the kind of season that no one outside of the Hurricanes’ locker room saw coming. They fell short of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, in Larranaga’s first season, but brought back a veteran team that took a Tournament-or-bust attitude toward this year.
Larkin said he could see how much Larranaga was investing in the program.
“I knew Coach L was a great motivator,” said Larkin, who had 7 points and five assists in Miami’s 60-59 win at BC on Jan. 16. “He’s like a politician. On campus, he’s always recruiting people to come to games. He’s doing everything he needs to do, going out there giving speeches in dorms or going to community service events just trying to get people to come to games.”
Perched atop the conference, with signature wins already under their belt, Larranaga said, the last thing he wants is for the Hurricanes to become complacent.
“We want to enjoy the journey, but we also want to stay focused on our next opponent,” Larranaga said. “And that’s what the guys have been able to do. If you win a game, enjoy that, celebrate that for a short while, but the very next day, you’re back to the office doing your job.”
But there’s an energy around the program that it hasn’t experienced in years.
When the team bus rolled back to campus after beating North Carolina State, there was a crowd there to greet them. At restaurants, he’ll get the better tables. More than that, when the waiters get there, he’s starting to get top billing over his dad.
“I’m used to everyone being like, ‘Hi, Barry! Oh, and is your son doing well at the university?’
“We beat Duke and it was, ‘Aw, Shane, you’re a great player, can we get your autograph. Oh, Barry? You’re a great player, too. No disrespect.’
“That’s just a great feeling knowing people are taking notice.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.