Quite the opposite, in fact.
“I know when I make mistakes,” Larranaga recalled Hancock saying. “But I feel like I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t want someone in my ear all the time saying, ‘Do this, do that.’ I don’t think I’m very coachable, but I think I’m a smart player.”
That meeting — and their similar life circumstances — helped forge a deep trust between coach and player. Larranaga is the fifth of six children in his family. Hancock is the youngest of six, four of them older brothers.
“I guess my brothers beating up on me growing up has helped a little bit,” Hancock said.
Said Larranaga: “I think you become tougher and hardened because you have to fight through everything. I think he plays with a chip on his shoulder, like he has something to prove every night out. He’s not someone who’s been given a lot. He feels like he has to earn it.”
As Hancock’s skills diversified, Larranaga began leaning on him in late-game situations. During his sophomore season in 2011, Hancock helped salvage a 15-game winning streak by calling a risky lob play against Georgia State. Down 10 points at Northern Iowa in mid-February, Larranaga turned to his assistants and pleaded for change. But before any adjustments could be made, Hancock scored eight of George Mason’s next 11 points to kick-start the Patriots’ comeback.
The lasting image for George Mason’s fans, however, will always be of Hancock burying the game-winning three-pointer against Villanova in the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament. It wound up being Hancock’s last game with the Patriots. Food poisoning sidelined him against overall No. 1 seed Ohio State in the next round, a humbling 98-66 loss. That offseason, after Larranaga accepted an offer to become Miami’s head coach, Hancock announced he was transferring. Louisville became his new treehouse.
Before going their separate ways, Venicia Hancock gave Larranaga a 60-page scrapbook filled with pictures snapped the day of the Villanova game. Posing with the police escort. Shootaround and practice in Cleveland. Hancock rising up for the winner, raising his arms after the final buzzer, hugging Larranaga during the celebration.
The book now resides atop a table in Larranaga’s office, beside framed portraits of the seniors from this year’s Miami team and a snapshot of Larranaga with Dwyane Wade. It’s a special book, Larranaga explains.