What is Miami’s Problem?Posted by KCarpenter on October 28th, 2011
Jim Larranaga is facing a harsh reality check. At George Mason, the coach was adored. The school’s students, band, and fans are a lively bunch who really love basketball, and a great deal of credit for that goes to Larranaga for building up the school’s program. At the University of Miami, however, things are different. Well, in Miami, things are different.
As Larranaga has pointed out several times in the preseason, Miami was the focal point of one of the most publicized basketball seasons in recent history: The debut of LeBron James and Chris Bosh with Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat. With the NBA players currently locked out and the professional season in jeopardy of partial or even full cancellation, assuming that Miami’s passion (?) for basketball would transfer to the Hurricanes seems like a fairly reasonable idea. In the right light, it seems reasonable when Larranaga says things like:
I heard that Miami loves star power, that if stars come and sit courtside then fans will think it’s a worthwhile event and show up, so we’re reaching out to those guys, and we’ll be inviting LeBron and Dwyane Wade to our games.
Given James’ recent deal to dress the university’s team with his branded Nike products (along with Kentucky and Ohio State’s teams), including some really cool-looking University of Miami customized LeBron 9’s, this seems like something that is well within the realm of possibility. So when Larranaga hosted his first Miami Madness, he must have been pleased to see a number of NBA players in attendance. When he saw who specifically showed up, he must have been at least a little crestfallen. James Posey, Jarrett Jack, Jannero Pargo, and Serge Ibaka are all fine players (just kidding about Pargo), but they aren’t exactly the same caliber of basketball star as James or Wade. In general, Larranaga must have been disappointed with the turnout as the assembled Miami fans struggled to even fill up the first several rows around the court.
If he was disappointed, however, he didn’t show it. The video of the coach trying to pump up an enthusiastic, but ultra-small crowd is disheartening. He’s trying so hard and getting so little in return. What’s the deal, Miami? Your team is stocked with some of the best players in the ACC and you can’t be bothered to even show up? I know that the NCAA investigation is hanging over Hurricane athletics like a dark, ominous, um, tropical storm. This problem isn’t new though. The basketball program seems to have a mortal lock on the lowest attendance numbers in the ACC. While Larranaga seems to think that if he can build the program up like he built up George Mason, the people will come, I’m skeptical. Even after assembling its superstar triumvirate, the Miami Heat couldn’t get fans to arrive to games on time if they even arrived at all. This is an organization that won a championship five years ago and played for a championship last season. Arguably the two best players on the NBA are on the same team, and the Heat has to teach the city how to “Fan Up.” That’s embarrassing
I feel bad for Larranaga. He is a fine coach leading a fine team. I guess it’s not surprising that people who choose to live and go to school in Miami are fair-weather fans, but, seriously: The sun is shining on this basketball squad. This team deserves to be loved by the university’s students and the wider south Florida community. So far, no one seems to be biting. That’s a real shame, and you can’t help but hope that things change in Coral Gables. Larranaga and his unflagging enthusiasm might make him just the man for the job.