At Miami, an ACC school where football overshadows basketball, he replaces Frank Haith, who was hired earlier this month by Missouri.
“It’s a challenge for me, but something that excites me very much,” Larranaga said Friday evening at an introductory news conference in Miami. “It’s the last piece in a coaching career to finalize what I am all about.”
Said Miami Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, “Jim is a man of great character who will be a first-class ambassador for the University of Miami.”
Under Larranaga’s leadership, the Patriots had a 273-164 record, won three Colonial Athletic Association titles and advanced to five NCAA tournaments. This past season, they tied the program record for victories (27) and set the mark for consecutive wins (16).
“The last 14 years of my life have been absolutely wonderful,” Larranaga said.
After passing on offers from bigger programs in recent years — including Providence, his alma mater, in 2008 — Larranaga, 61, seemed certain to end his career on the burgeoning suburban campus. But George Mason couldn’t match an offer — reportedly more than $1 million in base salary per year — from Miami, which competes in the elite ACC.
“One of the things that kept coming back in my mind was I’d love to coach in the ACC,” Larranaga said, adding that his family’s ties to the state of Florida — he owns a home in Lakewood Ranch, near Sarasota, his father was born in Key West and his grandfather came to Florida from Cuba — were a major reason he decided to take the Miami job.
George Mason’s proposal would have placed him among the five top-paid coaches in the mid-major category, Athletic Director Tom O’Connor said. “The university was very open to making sure that we could do the best that we could do, and then it was Jim’s decision whether to accept it,” he said.
Larranaga’s contract with George Mason was to run through the 2015-16 season. In the spring of 2008, he received an extension that increased his base salary to $525,000. The deal was extended again last year. Under his arrangement, Larranaga would incur no financial penalty if he resigned between the end of the season and July 15.
After meeting a number of incentives, Larranaga made around $700,000 in salary this past season, and O’Connor said Friday that the school would have been able to pay Larranaga about $1 million next season if all incentives were met.
Another apparent sticking point was compensation for Larranaga’s three assistants and support staff. O’Connor said that, about 10 days ago, the university approved new salaries for them. Larranaga has asked Chris Caputo, Michael Huger and Eric Konkol, as well as support staff, to join him at Miami. Caputo interviewed for jobs at Louisville and Florida, and Huger spoke with Villanova, a source said.