ATLANTA – Jim Larranaga made his mark as a basketball coach years ago at Bowling Green and George Mason. This season, with his Miami Hurricanes enjoying unprecedented success, Larranaga showed he has impressive footwork.
Minutes after he was introduced Thursday as The Associated Press Coach of the Year, the 63-year-old, two-time hip replacement patient was asked about his postgame Ali shuffle after the Hurricanes’ 63-59 victory over Illinois in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
During the hard-fought game at almost every timeout in the second half I said we’re in a fight and I need fighters. I told them we needed to fight to get every rebound, every loose ball, every basket, every inch of the floor, he recounted. I kept repeating that and after we won, as I was walking into the locker room to address them, I thought I have to congratulate them on how well they fought and the first name I thought of was Muhammad Ali.
Larranaga led Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles – the first in school history – and a school-best No. 2 ranking. The Hurricanes finished 29-7 in Larranaga’s second season.
The AP’s player of the year wasn’t able to make the presentation because he and his teammates were at practice, getting ready for the Final Four.
Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke was the player of the year after leading a young group of Wolverines to Michigan’s deepest run since the Fab Five era in 1992 and ’93, when the Wolverines played in back-to-back championships. They take on Syracuse in the national semifinals Saturday.
Burke joins Cazzie Russell in 1966 as the only Michigan players to win the award.
The Big Ten’s player of the year, Burke averaged 19.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 40.1 percent from behind the three-point line.
The voting was by the same 65-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Ballots had to be returned by Selection Sunday.
Burke received 31 votes while Otto Porter Jr. of Georgetown was second with 16 votes and Victor Oladipo of Indiana got 10.
Larranaga received 29 votes, Jim Crews of Saint Louis got 19 and Mark Few of Gonzaga had 11.