Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 2/15/13
The greatest player in University of Miami basketball history has had his differences with the program.But not anymore.Hall of Famer Rick Barry, who led the nation in scoring as a Hurricanes senior in 1964-65 before going on to a star-studded pro career, is thrilled to see Miami ranked third in the nation.Im happy for them, Barry said in a phone interview. What Jim (Larranaga, the teams coach) is doing has been amazing. I dont think anybody could have seen this coming but I envisioned that he would have success there. Hopefully, with this type of success (Miami) will be not just a football program but will also be able to sustain a basketball program.Barry, though, hasnt always been enamored with doings in Coral Gables. He was very dismayed when the program dropped basketball from 1971 until reinstating it in 1985. He was disappointed the school only gave him what he calls a token interview in 2000 to be Miamis head coach. And he believes the Hurricanes erred by not recruiting three of his sons who all went on to play in the NBA.Barry, who was on campus from 1961-65, averaged 37.4 points and 18.3 rebounds as a senior while being a first-team All-American and then being taken with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft. But just six years later the school, citing inadequate facilities, poor attendance and financial losses, eliminated basketball.I was so disappointed, said Barry, 68, who retired from the NBA in 1980 and is now a businessman and financial adviser in Colorado Springs. I couldnt believe that a major university would drop basketball. It was ridiculous. I went on TV shows for them to keep it, but it didnt do any good.Barry had no real ties with the school after the basketball program had been shuttered. But they resumed when basketball was reinstated for the 1985-86 season, and Barry said he was on hand for the first game back.After some lean years, the Hurricanes finally made the NCAA tournament three straight times from 1998 through 2000 under Leonard Hamilton before he bolted to the Washington Wizards. Barry then was hoping Miamis success would continue under him.I was disappointed that I wanted to get into coaching there and it was basically a token interview, said Barry, who then was coaching in the minor leagues and believes then-athletic director and now-deceased Paul Dee only interviewed him due to media pressure. They didnt owe me anything but when Paul Dee came out and the first thing he said was that he really wanted somebody with previous college coaching experience (which Barry didnt have), I was wondering why he even was here.Barry, who has expressed dismay for years about not getting coaching opportunities, believes he would have won at Miami.Of course, I would have turned things around, Barry said.Actually, Hamilton already had turned the program around. But Hurricanes hoops took a step back under Perry Clark, who was hired from Tulane in 2000 and eventually fired after going 65-54 in four seasons.Clifford Ray (a former NBA center) was ready to be my assistant to coach the big men and I had talked to Norm Van Lier (a former NBA guard who is now deceased) about coning out to work with the guards, Barry, who won an NBA title at Golden State with Ray in 1975, said of what he would have done had he been named Hurricanes coach in 2000. Players could have come (to Miami) and well show you the pro style and teach you how to play in the pros.Barry tutelages certainly didnt hurt in three of his sons making the NBA. Jon, who played at Georgia Tech was a pro from 1992-2006, Brent, who attended Oregon State, was one from 1995-2009, and Drew, who also went to Georgia Tech, played in the NBA from 1997-2000. Barrys oldest son, Scooter, didnt make the NBA, but played overseas after helping Kansas win the 1988 NCAA title.Scooter got out of high school when Miamis program was in hiatus. But Barry said Miami never recruited any of his three sons who made the NBA.It was kind of foolish, Barry said. It was pretty unbelievable. But it was their loss. Still, it was kind of bizarre. Why in the world would you not recruit the sons of somebody whose jersey is hanging from the rafters at the school?Barry denies hes had any friction over the years with his alma mater. But it cant be questioned there have been differences in thinking.Rick wasnt there much, Miami Heat guard James Jones said of when he starred for the Hurricanes from 1999-2003. The program was in transition I dont know much about (Barrys historical relationship with the school), but I know that hes still the greatest Hurricane to ever come through the program, and I would hope and think that there would always be a spot for him in the hearts and the minds of the Miami Hurricanes.As far as Barry is concerned, it didnt hurt that Larranaga recruited his latest basketball-playing son. Canyon is his fifth son and first with his second wife, Lynn. Larranaga visited the Barry home in the fall of 2011 during Canyons senior year at Cheyenne Mountain High School.Barry said Larranga didnt end up having an available scholarship but Canyon had the opportunity to attend the school on an academic scholarship. He eventually decided instead to sign with the College of Charleston.The Cougars then were coached by Bobby Cremins, who had both Jon and Drew at Georgia Tech. And Barry said the pressure of following in the footsteps of his father at Miami also played a role in Canyon not choosing the Hurricanes.Jim was nice enough to come out and we had a good talk, Barry said.With College of Charleston having an upcoming series of games against Miami, Barry said hell then be rooting for the Cougars. Otherwise, its all Hurricanes for him.They dont have a lottery pick on the team but theyve got a lot of guys who can play and theyve got a lot of experience, Barry said of Larranga's second season at the school. Theyve got a lot of confidence. They believe in what Jim is telling them. Theres no reason they cant sustain the success. Youve got to first have a proven winner but thats what they have now.Barry hasnt been to a game at Miami for a few years. He had hoped to attend last Saturdays game against North Carolina for an event involving some members of the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame but ended up having a schedule conflict.If Barry has a chance to catch a Hurricanes game in the NCAA tournament, he will. Hes much more excited about the basketball program than he has been at times before.Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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