STG J: In the Frank Haith days, Miami had a bunch of close-but-no-cigar sort of seasons. Relative to the recent history of Miami basketball, just how good of a job has Jim Larranaga done? Has he succeeded in changing the program’s culture?
CW: Ask any Miami hoops fan and they will say that Coach Larranaga is just what Miami needed. Not only has he turned the corner with the current Miami squad but he has proved that he can take teams to the next level, something Haith couldn’t quite seem to do. During his 14 seasons at George Mason, Larranaga took the Patriots to the Final Four in 2006 and guided them to five NCAA tournament appearances. Although Haith was heralded as a great recruiter, I think it was time for a change in Coral Gables and Larranaga was the perfect fit. At one point in the season, Miami was ranked as high as No. 2, their highest ranking in program history.
STG K: Considering the violations upcoming against Miami football, if the NCAA doesn’t blow up the investigation again, can basketball take over as the U’s dominant sport, at least for some time?
CW: Miami has always been known as a football school and I don’t expect that to change. Although the basketball team has done really well this season, honestly, I don’t see them winning the ACC next year. They lose too much talent. Kadji, Scott, Johnson, Gamble and McKinney Jones will be gone. Unless they reload quickly, I expect the football to continue to be the dominant sport.
STG J: Do you think this Miami team is built to win now or do you have reason to believe that the Canes will be contending in the ACC for years to come?
CW: If Miami were to win the ACC it needed to be this year. The current squad is built to win now. Honestly, I’m not sure how big of contenders they will be next year. They are stocked with seniors and will lose Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott, Julian Gamble and Trey McKinney Jones to graduation – that’s almost all of their starters. Sophomore guard Shane Larkin announced his decision to stay for his junior year, but I don’t expect him to be around for his senior year. Unless Miami can reload quickly, like the Dukes and the North Carolinas, it’s hard to see them being a serious contender, at least next year. But you never know – nobody picked Miami to win the ACC this year.