CORAL GABLES -- This run to the top of the ACC all started for Jim Larranaga a couple of years ago in Erie, Pa., where he was visiting his son, Jay, who was coaching a NBA developmental team there.
A phone call came from a Miami friend and businessman, Jose Mas. The week before Larranaga called Mas to inquire about the Miami coaching job. He was told Frank Martin was considered the frontrunner.
Only now Mas was saying Martin wasn't the choice, and if Larranaga was interested he should send in his resume. Larranaga didn't have a resume made up. He certainly didn't have one in Erie.
"Copy your Wikipedia page and send it to them," Jay said to his dad.
Larranaga stops now and smiles in telling the story from a couch in his office, a few minutes after beating Florida State, 71-47.
"So that's what I did," he said. "I sent my Wikipedia page to them. And an hour later I got a call for an interview."
He's 63 now, on the back end of a good basketball life, and you're seeing exactly why he came to Miami. This year. This chance. What his team showed in beating Duke by 27 points they continued in beating Florida State by 24.
Miami is 6-0 now, its best start ever in any conference. It will climb from its 25th ranking into uncharted territory perhaps this week. By the end of Sunday's game, ESPN analyst Jay Williams said, "I think this team can go to the Final Four."
Larranaga dreamed of leading an ACC program ever since he was a Virginia assistant in the 1980s. He then spent a couple of decades off-Broadway, heading programs in Bowling Green and George Mason, which he took to the Final Four in 2006.
"I didn't think I'd get the chance to coach (in the ACC)," he said. "Then the president at George Mason retired and a week later Miami's job opened up. The planets aligned, you might say."
The interview procured by his Wikipedia page was an hour in Boston that summer of 2011. It only lasted an hour. He again thought he had little chance for the job. He then found out Miami was between athletic directors and so was waiting for that hire.
When Shawn Eichhorst took the job, Larranaga thought for the third time he had no chance at the job. Eichhorst was from Wisconsin, and he knew nobody from Wisconsin.
"Sure you do -- Doc Rivers," his son said.
The Boston Celtics coach attended Marquette, and it was through such tenuous connections a phone call was made. Rivers called Eichhorst. He put in the necessary word for Larranaga.
The question shouldn't have been why Miami wanted Larranaga in all this. It should have been why Larranaga wanted Miami, considering the state of the program and the thought of its future.
"I never stopped dreaming of coaching in the ACC, and this was a perfect place for me," he said.
His players are like him in this regard. They're seniors, for the most part, who have toiled in the shadows for years. Now they've had a big week and are starting to breathe the air of a climbing team.
They beat Duke and North Carolina for the first time in a season. They've had back-to-back sellouts their past two games the first time ever. Last week, it was Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, asked what went wrong, who said, "Everything."
Now it was Leonard Hamilton throwing time-outs at Miami to try to stop a 17-3 run early in the second half.
"This is a top team," Hamilton said of Miami.
They've handled questions and no attention the past several years. Now, in Larranaga's second year, we'll see if they can handle success. In his office now, having walked through people congratulating him, Larranaga was happy with 6-0. But not content.
He's told what Williams said about Miami being a Final Four team. The coach who had to copy his Wikipedia page to get the job only half-smiles and says, "If we're playing in April, he's right." ___