Larranaga discusses relationship with Merten, direction of university

Former men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga speaks to his support team during the NCAA tournament game against Villanova. (John Powell)

President Alan Merten’s 2012 resignation is going to change the direction of the university, according to former men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga.

Listen to the WGMU interview


Larranaga, 61, is leaving his coaching position with the George Mason Patriots. He will fill the empty head coaching position with the University of Miami Hurricanes. During a Wednesday conversation with WGMU Sports Break he spoke fondly of his relationship with Merten. When the university president told the coach about his plans earlier this spring, Larranaga began to assess what he would do.

“It really made me think about my own situation,” Larranaga said. “I’ve been such a good friend and he’s was such a good friend to me, and the direction of the university, you know, it’s going to change. It has to. “

In the interview, Larranaga recalled an early memory from his career at Mason. Merten had invited Larranaga and his wife to the Business Man Hall of Fame event, a black-tie affair, and following the event, the university president told the coach to buy and not rent a tuxedo for formal events. Merten told him he would be “doing this regularly.”

The friendship between the two, as well as Merten’s vision for the university, meant a lot to Larranaga, he told the hosts of the show.

”When the leadership changes, people want their own staff in there,” Larranaga said. “I don’t know how much that would have affected the basketball program, but it certainly gave me reason to give interest in Miami when they came calling.”

Larranaga will head to Miami after a 14-year legacy at Mason, including the Cinderella year of 2006, when he coached the mid-major Patriots to their Final Four run. At Miami, he’ll enter a job vacated by Frank Haith.

Athletic Director Tom O’Connor told members of the Patriot Platoon Thursday that he has no exact timetable for the selection process for Mason’s new coach, but hopes to have position filled by the time the players depart for summer break.

The hosts of the show also asked Larranaga about Cam Long’s future, and the possibility of him making the NBA draft.

“My first reaction is that I wish [Long] and all those guys the best of success, and I sure hope he gets drafted,” Larranaga said.

Long’s name has appeared in draft predictions, including one from

Larranaga commented that if Long can get himself drafted by the right team, he has the chance not only to play in the NBA, but also to be an impact player.

“So much of life is the right opportunities coming at the right time, and for [Long], it’s about not only being drafted, but being drafted by the team that needs the skills that he can provide,” Larranaga said.

Before the close of the interview, the conversation returned to Larranaga’s departure and he called his 14 years at Mason “the best 14 years of [his] life.”

“I will miss you guys more than you miss me,” Larranaga said.

When prompted with a suggestion that Miami look for an away game at Mason, Larranaga laughed it off.

“Don’t hold your breath,” he said.


WGMU's Sports Break airs every Wednesday from 7 - 9 p.m. on The audio from the show was edited by WGMU Sports Director Tyler Mauro. The text article was written by C2M Executive Editor Kevin Loker.


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