Homecoming for Larranaga as Miami faces Marquette

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 27, 2013
Jim Larranaga smiled and raised both hands to acknowledge the fans in green - those from both Miami and George Mason - as he walked onto the court where he become part of a national sensation seven years ago. He signed autographs, posed for pictures and was about to turn his attention to practice when he spotted two special people: Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn, starters from the 2006 GMU team. Larranaga hugged them both and reminisced about ''you guys running over to our section'' of fans at the final whistle to celebrate the win over Connecticut that sent the mid-major Patriots to the Final Four. ''This is not just any other arena,'' the coach said. No, it's not. This is the Verizon Center, where Larranaga convinced his players that the CAA on their jerseys stood for ''Connecticut Assassin Association'' instead of the Colonial Athletic Association. It's where it became believable again that an out-of-the-blue school could advance to college basketball's biggest stage, paving the way for similar runs by Virginia Commonwealth and Butler. And, on Wednesday, it's where Larranaga gathered his players in a circle at midcourt after warmups and told them: ''You know why they call it the Sweet 16? It's sweet! Let's go.'' Yep, still the same ol' Larranaga. ''To them I'm kind of wacky, you know?'' he said. ''I say a lot of things to them and initially they don't understand. I use quotes and our thought of the day. I ask them to explain it, they have no idea, and I have to then educate them of what we're trying to get across. Coming into this building, to them it's just another venue, but to me and my staff, it's not.'' He's now in a different league now, leading Atlantic Coast Conference champion and top seed Miami (29-6) against fourth-seeded Marquette (25-8) in Thursday's East Regional semifinals, but no one else goes viral quite like this: Larranaga's version of the Ali Shuffle, meant to demonstrate the Hurricanes' fighting mentality, became an Internet must-see after he performed it for his players following Sunday night's win over Illinois. ''His approach to the game is different,'' senior forward Julian Gamble said. ''It's very different to the coaching staff that we had previous to him arriving, but his charisma and the energy he brought, we knew it was going to be a really good thing for us, and it was easy for us to buy into that.'' Meanwhile, Marquette coach Buzz Williams' arrival in the nation's capital was no match for his counterpart's homecoming, even though the Golden Eagles have been on a compelling run of their own. Marquette won its first two games by a combined three points, both with wipe-your-brow late comebacks. Williams' wife had an appendectomy just before the start of the tournament. He was speaking his mind as usual Wednesday, saying that the opening statement at NCAA news conferences is ''a waste of time'' and telling a reporter who asked a repeat question to get the answer ''off this lady here transcribing it'' on the stenography machine. But this was Larranaga's day. ''I have great respect for coach Jim Larranaga,'' Williams said. ''I think he's pure in how he goes about things. I think he's a guy that someone at this point in my career can look up to, because I think he does it for the right reasons.'' Williams leaves a manic impression when the clock is running, and Georgetown fans at the Verizon Center often chant ''Off the court!'' during Big East games because he strays so far from the bench. On Wednesday, he was relaxed and calm as he watched sons Calvin and Mason and daughter Zera mingle with his players during an easygoing practice. ''If you only see me on game day, probably what you think of me is - I wouldn't say diametrically opposed - but it's distinctly different,'' he said. Which also makes him distinctly different from Larranaga, who is pretty much the same wherever he goes. Even when he's making a return trip to the scene of his greatest triumph. ''We have seen the highlights of it. It was a great run, it was magical,'' Miami guard Shane Larkin said. ''Hopefully he still has some left in him. Not saying that we need luck, but hopefully he still has a winning touch, and it's going to be fun playing out here in this arena.'' --- Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Dwight Howard ejected for hanging on rim

NHL rumors: Capitals acquire Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk in bold trade

Report: Chiefs making ‘strong push’ to make Eric Berry highest-paid safety in NFL

Dana White hints at Conor McGregor's next opponent

Report: Steelers make Brown NFL's highest-paid WR

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Chiefs sign Duvernay-Tardif to five-year extension

MLB considering introducing 'stickier' baseballs

Report: Browns have discussed trading No. 12 pick for Garoppolo

Report: Lowry expected to miss 4-5 weeks, return for playoffs

Report: Cowboys to release Romo in coming weeks

Report: Jennings expected to sign with Hornets

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Box Score 2/24: A night of NBA disrespect

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season since 2000

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker