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Larranaga leaves George Mason for University of Miami hoops post
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Jim Larranaga has taken the Miami Hurricanes' basketball job after 14 years at George Mason, including an improbable run to the Final Four in 2006.

Larranaga called George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor on Friday morning to say he accepted Miami's offer. The Hurricanes scheduled an evening news conference to introduced their new coach, who replaces Frank Haith.

"Coach Larranaga is the real deal," Miami president Donna Shalala said in a statement. "He's a winner, an inspirational leader, and he cares deeply about his players and staff."

Larranaga, 61, led the Patriots to five NCAA tournament berths and went 273-164, setting a school record for victories. This season his team went 27-7 and reached the third round of the tournament before losing to overall No. 1 seed Ohio State.

Larranaga helped the Patriots win three titles in the Colonial Athletic Association. Now he moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference, where the Hurricanes were 43-69 the past seven seasons under Haith.

"Jim can coach at any level," O'Connor said. "He could probably coach the Los Angeles Lakers if he wanted to."

Miami officials declined to comment. The hiring was made by Shawn Eichorst only nine days after he became the Hurricanes' athletic director.

Haith left for Missouri after going 129-101 at Miami, including 21-15 this past season.

Larranaga's contract at George Mason, which ran until 2016, had a base salary of $525,000. The school offered him a package including incentive bonuses would that have put him in the top five among mid-major coaches in compensation, O'Connor said, but even that deal couldn't compete with Miami's resources.

Unlike the Hurricanes, George Mason does not have a football program.

"In all honesty, the university can only go so far with finances," O'Connor said. "We think we put together a very, very attractive financial compensation package. We couldn't compete with an ACC school, a big football school with its budget."

A native New Yorker, Larranaga also coached at Bowling Green for 11 seasons and Division II American International for two seasons.

The improbable NCAA tournament run by George Mason in 2006 was a triumph for all mid-major programs. The Patriots beat Michigan State, North Carolina and second-seeded Connecticut before losing to Florida in the national semifinals at Indianapolis.

Larranaga also led the Patriots to the tournament in 1999, 2001 and 2008. Miami made the tournament once under Haith, losing in the second round in 2008.

Small crowds have been a chronic problem for the Hurricanes, who compete in a market that includes all four major professional sports. Average attendance at George Mason was 3,192 the season before Larranaga arrived but climbed to 6,834 the year after the Final Four appearance, and was 5,896 this past year.

O'Connor said George Mason's search for a replacement would start immediately.

"I'm confident we can attract a very strong basketball coach," O'Connor said.

Miami's hiring of Larranaga completes a revamping of the athletic department. Al Golden replaced Randy Shannon in December as football coach, and Eichorst replaced Kirby Hocutt, who became athletic director at Texas Tech.