Coaching Challenge: Jim Larranaga (Miami, Fl)

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Four ACC coaches our out, four new ones are in. That was the easy part. The fun part begins now. Each new coach has to deal with their unique challenges. Tuesday I talked about Maryland’s and Coach Turgeon. Today, I take my talents down to South Beach.

JIM LARRANAGA (MIAMI, FL)

When I talked about  Maryland’s Mark Turgeon on Tuesday, I felt like out of all the new coaches in the ACC, he had the best long-term outlook. Yet, at the same time, I expected him to struggle out of the gate. Not because the man can’t coach, he can. But rather he was going to have to take over a young, inexperienced team and introduce them to a new system.

Jim Larranaga is the exact opposite.

Because of his age (61 years old), I just don’t see Larranaga having a long career at Miami. However, thanks to an experienced roster that includes both a legit big man and a pair of lethal guards, he really has an opportunity to do something real good in South Beach in 2011-2012. I’m not going to declare it something “special,” but he’s a veteran guy who has the ability to get these players adjusted to a new system in a hurry.

In less than two weeks as the head coach, Larranaga has already gotten two bits of good news. First, he was able to salvage 2011 recruit in Bishop Daniels. The 3-star combo guard is currently Miami’s only commitment.

Secondly and most importantly behemoth center, Reggie Johnson, has ended his flirtation with the NBA and will return for his junior season. He was a second-round pick at best and by returning, he can really bump up his value.

Looking ahead, Miami will only lose one starter, forward Adrian Thomas. He’s not that big of a loss.

Both guards, senior Malcolm Grant and junior Durand Scott, will be back in 2011-2012. While there might be more talented backfields in the ACC, Grant and Scott are the ACC’s most experienced. Both have been starters the previous two seasons, both are solid ball handlers and both can shoot it from deep.

Jim Larranaga’s first big challenge will be to teach his guards how to share the ball a bit more and become more aggressive on the defensive end. The fact is, UM was 10th in the ACC in assists and 10th in steals.

Inside, the return of Reggie Johnson is huge. When he’s not committing stupid fouls at the top of the key, he’s an effective inside presence with the ability to not just bull people over, but create his own shot with his back to the basket. I’m high on this kid and I really believe he has the ability to be second or third team All-ACC.

Speaking of big guys, I’d love to see Larranaga put in Julian Gamble into the starting lineup next to Johnson. If he did, they’d arguable be the biggest front line in college basketball all by themselves. The pair would combine to weight 570 pounds.

POTENTIAL 2011-2012 STARTING LINEUP
G – Malcolm Grant
G – Durand Scott
F – DeQuan Jones
F – Julian Gamble
C – Reggie Johnson

Add in Rion Brown (who started last season), Garrius Adams and Erik Swoope (who should make a solid leap forward as a sophomore), you’re looking at a pretty good core of players. The number one issue is, they’ve simply never been a winner before. I have faith in Coach Larranaga and I can really see the Canes finishing in the top-five in the ACC.

Of course for Jim Larranaga it will be the follow up that’s the real challenge. He’s going to potentially lose his three best players (Johnson, Scott and Grant) after this season, so he’s going to need to hit the trail hard. The hard reality is, he hasn’t had to chase 4-5 star talent since the early 80’s as an assistant to Virginia. That’s what Larranaga needs to prove he can do in Miami.