After a 14-year run that included an improbable run to the 2006 Final Four and helping to put the Colonial Athletic Association on the map, George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga has left the program for the same position at the University of Miami.
As difficult as this move must be for Patriots fans, you can't blame the 61-year-old coach for striking while the iron is hot. Even after a run that saw Mason go 273-164, win three CAA championships and five NCAA Tournament berths, Larranaga saved his best for last, guiding his team to a school-record 27 wins this year. He built the Patriots into a brand name school, even if it wasn't on par with the schools he'll now be coaching against in the ACC. Larranaga proved that George Mason was more than a one-hit wonder, undoubtedly his greatest accomplishment of all.
In Miami he'll take over a program that has been consistently close, but nothing more. Despite a record of 118-89 in seven seasons under Frank Haith, the Hurricanes only have one NCAA Tournament appearance to show for their efforts. Can Larranaga take Miami over the top and turn them into something beyond a middle of the pack program in the ACC? He'll have greater resources and the allure of a power conference to work with. Beyond that though, he has experience in bunches. So often we've been privy to up and coming mid-major coaches struggling upon making the move to a name school, but a veteran of Larranaga's ilk seemingly has the knowhow to weather any early storms.
His new deal is reportedly worth over $1 million annually.
The more interesting storyline in the future now will be what this means for George Mason? The Patriots have managed consistent success over the past six years, but the architect responsible for it all has now moved on - can it be sustained?