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Thursday, March 21, 2013
Miami (FL) coach, star have New York roots

By Kieran Darcy

Jim Larranaga and Durand Scott
Jim Larranaga and Durand Scott look to add to Miami's four tournament wins, starting on Friday.
Iona is the lone New York metropolitan area team left in the NCAA tournament -- and unless the Gaels pull a huge upset Friday night against Ohio State, New York fans will soon be searching for a new team to root for.

Miami (FL) is a prime candidate. Both coach Jim Larranaga and Durand Scott, one of the team's top players, hail from the Big Apple.

Larranaga was born and raised in the Bronx, and was a star player at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens in the mid-1960s. He played for legendary coach Jack Curran, who passed away last week at the age of 82.

After graduating from Molloy, Larranaga went on to play at Providence, and finished as the school's fifth all-time leading scorer, with 1,258 career points.

Larranaga began his coaching career as an assistant at Davidson, and had head coaching stints at American International and Bowling Green. But he is best known for his 14-year tenure at George Mason, which included five NCAA tournament appearances and a stunning trip to the 2006 Final Four.

Now in his second year at Miami, Larranaga was asked to compare this year's Hurricanes to his Patriots from '06.

"The first thing that is a little bit striking is we had great senior leadership, older guys, actually guys who had red-shirted, a guy who went to prep school. We had three seniors in our starting lineup back then and two sophomores," Larranaga said. "This Miami team has four seniors in the starting lineup and one sophomore. And I think that combination of youthful enthusiasm and optimism with experience and size and toughness, those teams are similar."

Durand Scott
Bronx native Durand Scott eyes a national championship in the Miami Hurricanes' future.
Larranaga was speaking at his pregame news conference on Thursday in Austin, Texas. The Hurricanes, the No. 2 seed in the East region, play No. 15 seed Pacific on Friday at 2:10 p.m. ET.

Scott is one of those four seniors. The 6-foot-5, 203-pound shooting guard is Miami's third-leading scorer (13.2 ppg). He, too, is from the Bronx, and played at the now closed Rice High School in Harlem.

Scott led Rice to a state championship in his senior year, and has been remarkably consistent at Miami. He has averaged in double figures in scoring all four years, and has started in 122 of 129 career games.

The Hurricanes have come a long way since Scott joined the program. They finished 4-12 in the ACC his freshman year. This season, they won the ACC regular season and tournament titles.

Expectations are high. But the Hurricanes have just four NCAA tournament wins in school history, in just six appearances, and haven't been in the Big Dance since 2008.

"It's been an exciting time," Scott said Thursday. "I'm pretty sure there's some butterflies because this is our first time here, but I think we're ready for the moment."

Luckily for the Hurricanes, their coach has plenty of experience at this.

"Once you get into the tournament, everybody's good and you really need to play well to move on," Larranaga said. "That's what we told our George Mason team and that's what we're telling our Miami team -- to advance you got to play well."

The journey begins Friday afternoon.