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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: April 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

George Mason to interview Jeff Jones today?

There have been a ton of names thrown out there for the head coaching job at George Mason lately.  From names like Jeff Capel to guys like Stony Brook's Steve Pikiell.  People who we may have thought were in the early running like Bill Courtney and Mike Lonergan seem to not be high on Tom O'Connor's list. Neither have been contacted by the university and Lonergan is already talking to GW about their vacancy. Meanwhile the local media near Cornell seems to think Courtney isn't going anywhere

One name that may or may not make the Mason fan base cringe is Jeff Jones, who is currently the head coach at American.  Yesterday afternoon Greg Burton of ESPN950 radio in Richmond claimed that Jones will be interviewing at George Mason today.  You can listen here, it starts at about the 7 minute mark.  Could be the Mason administration just doing their due diligence of a local guy but you never know with these things.  

Jeff Jones is an interesting candidate because he doesn't seem like the type of character guy the administration would bring in after someone like Jim Larranaga.  Jones starred as a point guard at UVA and then went on to be come the youngest ACC coach at the time at the age of 29.  He had early success and compiled a 146-104 record while there and reached the Elite Eight in 1995. His teams went to the NCAA tournament five times out of eight seasons and he won the NIT championship in 1992. However the program unraveled during his last three seasons, some of which because of off-the-court issues from both Jones and his players. Apparently it was rumored that Jones had an affair with a UVA cheerleader that eventually led to a divorce from his wife in 1996.  He was  dismissed in 1998 after three sub-par seasons and then became the head coach at American in 2000.  Jones has taken American to the NCAA tournament twice but his overall work there doesn't exactly "wow" you.  

I can't say I'd really be all that thrilled if Jeff Jones was the next George Mason head basketball coach.  He seems like the polar opposite of Jim Larranaga, who Fairfax and the alumni/student body fell in love with.  When you hear things from media closer to the situation describing the end of his time at UVA as "a train wreck in slow motion", it's difficult to applaud Tom O'Connor for bringing this guy in.  I believe in giving people second changes but it's one of those 'is this the best guy out there' type of deals. O'Connor has to know hiring someone like Jones won't exactly win back the Mason fan base, right?


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

George Mason will finally play VCU twice during the regular conference schedule

Since the 2006-2007 season George Mason and VCU have only met once annually during the CAA regular season schedule. The conference shifts the home and home series opponents every couple of years but the result has been the Patriots and Rams, two of the CAA's elite not facing each other more than once a year unless they got matched up in the conference tournament.  The CAA just released today the men's basketball scheduling format for the next three seasons:
"The new format features 18 conference games and is similar to the recently completed six-year schedule that was adopted prior to the 2005-06 campaign. Each team was assigned five “permanent partners” that they play home and away during all three seasons (10 games). The remaining six “non-permanent partners” rotate through a three-year cycle in which teams face two opponents at home, two opponents away and two opponents home and away (8 games) each year."
Here is the breakdown for George Mason opponents, you can find the complete list for the 3 year plan here:

Permanent Partners, Home & Away every year: JMU, ODU, Towson, UNCW, VCU

2011-2012 schedule:

Home & Away: Delaware, Hofstra

Home only: Georgia State, William & Mary

Away only:  Drexel, Northeastern


Monday, April 25, 2011

Are all the assistant coaches following Jim Larranaga to Miami?

We already knew that the assistant coaches were looking for work elsewhere after the news about Jim Larranaga's departure surfaced. Now it seems they may be headed to Miami as well. Josh Barr of the Washington Post, who covers recruiting and local high school sports, tweeted today that all the George Mason assistant coaches were following Larranaga to the ACC:

Barr would be a reliable source as he has a long history of reporting on recruiting updates that have to do with the assistant coaches.  If the entire coaching staff goes to Miami you really have to start worrying about certain players following them there as well.  


Who will be the next head coach at George Mason?

Still weird to think I won't be seeing Jim Larranaga at the CAA media day this year but when you read about why he left George Mason, you almost can't blame him. If your a Mason fan your anger and blame really can't be placed on Larranaga but rather the University administration and AD Tom O'Connor.  They have made it pretty clear they don't seem to care all that much about staying competitive in what has become a much improved CAA conference. Larranaga on 106.7 The Fan this morning completely dodged the question about his rumored rift with O'Connor, it's safe to say that was a big issue. Here is the audio from that exchange:

Also here is a little piece of that Mike Wise article about Coach L's departure that the SB Nation highlighted and I think everyone should read:
"Mason could’ve done more.

Did you know VCU is spreading $150,000 among Smart’s three assistant coaches, who already make about $300,000 between them, because they understand what it takes to keep their young, hot coach to stay in Richmond?"
Sure money wasn't the only reason Larranaga left. He always wanted to coach in the ACC, has siblings in Florida, a house there already, and you can't blame his wife for wanting to spend their later years away from those Northern Virginia winters.

Now we look to who will be the next head coach at George Mason.  Unlike in 1997 when Larranaga was inheriting a basement CAA team, a new coach here would take on a team that could be receiving some Top 25 votes in the early weeks. The position seems pretty open and really anyone could be a candidate at this point.  I've already speculated Bill Courtney but remember he's only been at Cornell as a head coach for one season. He might want to see what he can do there before taking on something else and at this point I'm not even sure if the school has contacted him. The Washington Examiner posted this Top 5 list over the weekend:
5. Jim Baron » The last basketball coach O'Connor hired before Larranaga was Baron in 1992, when O'Connor was the AD at St. Bonaventure. Baron has six 20-win seasons in 10 years at Rhode Island but no NCAA appearances. At 57, is he too old and too settled?

4. Jim Ferry » The 43-year-old took run-and-gun Long Island to the NCAA tournament with two local standouts -- Springbrook grads C.J. Garner and Jamal Olasewere. But does O'Connor have bad memories of uptempo basketball after inheriting Paul Westhead when he took over at George Mason in 1994?

3. Mike Rhoades » If Shaka Smart had left VCU, the Rams would have been comfortable promoting his 36-year-old assistant, who posted a 197-76 mark in 10 seasons at Randolph-Macon.

2. Bill Courtney » The 40-year-old former player at Robert E. Lee High and current coach at Cornell served eight seasons under Larranaga, recruiting many of the players from the Patriots' 2006 Final Four team. Big question: Does O'Connor want a Larranaga disciple?

1. Mike Lonergan » In six seasons, the 45-year-old has taken Vermont to the NCAA once, CBI once and NIT twice. Lonergan has plenty of local ties, playing at Archbishop Carroll, playing and coaching at Catholic and working as an assistant at Maryland. George Mason is a logical next step.
Mike Lonergan seems like the most logical choice at this point because of this area ties and track record.  Apparently a radio station in the Vermont area says he's a finalist for the George Mason job. However the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan said this morning that Lonergan has yet to be contacted by George Mason.  Perhaps this could be happening this week. One name not on that list is American head coach Jeff Jones who also played and coached at UVA.  He's really brought up the program at American and has experience talking teams to the NCAA tournament.

We could very well be hearing some new names this week because at this point it's all speculation by fans and the the media.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Update on the assistant coaches

Photo by John Powell
While the search begins for next head coach in Fairfax I've learned that the George Mason assistant coaches all have interviewed for other coaching jobs.  

-Chris Caputo interviewed for assistant coach jobs with Kentucky and Florida

-Mike Huger interviewed with Villanova

-Eric Konkol interviewed at a Division III school

All three coaches were asked by Jim Larranaga to join him in Miami. It doesn't seem like any are being considered for a promotion to head coach at George Mason.

Also regarding the 2011 incoming freshmen it seems that both Corey Edwards and Vaughn Gray are undecided about if they will still be coming to George Mason.  They both are waiting to see who the new head coach is before making a final decision.

[Source: Steven Goff]


Early favorite to replace Jim Larranaga could be Bill Courtney

With Jim Larranaga now officially leaving for Miami who will be the next George Mason head coach?  One name your going to hear a lot about is former Larranaga assistant Bill Courtney.  Courtney practically built the 2006 Final Four team and still has ties to the school.  Boosters have told me he paid money out of his own pocket to travel to Cleveland to watch this year's team in the NCAA tournament. Courtney left the program  right before the 2005-2006 season to go to Providence and watched the team he had a large hand in recruiting reach the Final Four. The university paid for him to be there during that year at the NCAA tournament.  He then moved on to be an assistant at Virginia, Virginia Tech and brief stint at VCU before becoming head coach at Cornell where he is at currently.  

Courtney would be a great hire as he is already familar with the program and the university.  There could be a few more sexy candidates out there, such as Harvard's Tommy Amaker, a Fairfax native.  Wouldn't that be ironic if the guy who turned down the Miami replaces the guy who took it?  Also current Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan could be a candidate. I would love to see Chris Caputo get the job but I heard rumors he's got something else in the works, we'll have to wait and see.

Mason AD Tom O'Connor, who I'm sure most fans aren't happy with right now, says he wants to replace Larranaga quickly but as thoroughly as possible.

Update: The latest from the Post:
"However, a source close to the team said Courtney would be a long shot to get the job, at best.
Another possibility is Vermont Coach Mike Lonergan, a former assistant at Maryland and former head coach at Catholic, where he led the Cardinals to the 2001 Division III national championship. Lonergan was born in Silver Spring and raised in Bowie, and he attended Archbishop Carroll High School.

American Coach Jeff Jones and Virginia Commonwealth assistant Mike Rhoads are also seen by some as possible candidates."


Jim Larranaga to leave George Mason, accept Miami head coaching job

Gary Parrish of the and Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports have confirmed that Jim Larranaga is taking the Miami job.

The news came as a bit of a shock to the Mason nation yesterday.  I certainly didn't see this coming, especially after Larranaga turned down the Providence job for the 2nd time.  The move is a little puzzling to the college basketball community because the University of Miami isn't exactly a better coaching job despite being an ACC opportunity.  Larranaga is leaving behind a potential Top 30 team in next year's Patriots and at 61 is taking on the task of rebuilding a struggling ACC program.

Almost every member of the seems to be scratching their head as to why now and why Miami. He's had opportunities to coach in power conferences before at much more established programs.  The Miami job is arguably the worst one in the ACC in terms of program support and fan attendance.  Does he really care that much about newer facilities at this stage of his career? Perhaps the move is strictly about money.

This whole speaks to the George Mason administration. Gary Parrish said "it got nasty between Jim  and athletic director Tom O'Connor at the end. Both egos played a role". Larranaga has talked about resources before in his career and it was the reason he left Bowling Green for Fairfax back in 1997.  He's resources were being cut there and who knows if something like that is happening here.  For instance where is the basketball practice facility the school talked about almost two and half years ago? I wouldn't be surprised if Larranaga was promised things back in 2006 and then again in 2008 that didn't quite materialize.  There was a clause in his contract that stated the school would spend $150K a year to promote the of the program. Aside from a funny cartoon YouTube that went semi-viral I'd love to see how exactly that money was spent.

In the end it's about getting paid. Larranaga is at the end of his career and just saw a 2nd year fellow CAA coach get $500K more in annual base salary then him after doing exactly what he did in 2006. It's not about winning, he has done that already it's about him doubling his salary when he has the opportunity.  People will say he's looking for a challenge, as if bringing George Mason out of the basement of the CAA wasn't enough of a daunting task especially when you think of what this program was like back in 1997.

Larranaga is responsible for the George Mason program you now see that will most likely be a Top 30 team unless a bunch of guys transfer. The program obtained some brand recognition over the last couple of years and he really built something great here in Fairfax.  It's sad to seem him go as he has been the face of George Mason basketball but this was going to happen sooner or later.  The head coaching job at Mason is now one of the most coveted currently available so at least we aren't searching for a new coach during a rebuilding process.


Roundup of the Larranaga to Miami news

Confused about what is going on with all this Jim Larranaga to University of Miami news?  Your not alone.  The news broke yesterday afternoon and the latest is that he is expected to meet with Miami officials today.  As of late Thursday he has not accepted the job. Here is what we know at this point:

- Gary Parrish broke the news yesterday that Coach L was in serious discussion with Miami about their coaching vacancy

- Steven Goff of the Washington Post confirmed that Miami asked for and was given permission to talk to Larranaga

- Local DC radio station 106.7 The Fan reported that George Mason assistant coaches were looking for other jobs.  They also insinuated that one of Larranaga's reasons for leaving could be the University not paying to keep his assistants.  Some rumors also flowed around yesterday that Chris Caputo was out securing a new gig.

- Many are saying the move could have something to do with GMU president Alan Merten retiring.  It was no secret Merten's dedication to the basketball program was one of the reasons Coach L stayed after the offers were pouring in back in 2006. Might Larranaga think a new president won't be as committed to helping the program's growth continue?

- Later on yesterday Len Robbins of the NY Post stated that Larranaga was holding a team meeting and that is basically a done deal that he was moving on to Miami. A few hours later this report was shot down by Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman who tweeted no such team meeting happened.

- This brings us to today were the Miami Herald is saying Larranaga is one his way to Miami today to meet with University officials. They go on to say a deal could be reached today and that the two sides were close to a deal last night.  

-This morning Michelle Kaufman who wrote that article from the Miami Herald was 106.7 The Fan this morning.  Sounds like all speculation to me.  If Larranaga is doing a dance to get more from George Mason I could definitely see him going to Miami and meeting with them. Nothing is signed yet.  Will post podcast of that when it is up.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jim Larranaga in discussion with Miami officials about the school's coaching vacancy

Gary Parrish of just posted this interesting little tidbid about Coach Larranaga:
"George Mason's Jim Larranaga has had serious discussions with Miami officials about the ACC school's coaching vacancy, multiple sources told on Thursday. Whether Larranaga is leveraging for a better deal from George Mason or on the verge of actually moving to Miami is unclear, both sources said. But the talks are advanced and ongoing, and the 61-year-old New York native has developed into Miami's top target."
More to come as this story develops. Hopefully it's just some smoke and perhaps Larranaga is trying to get another raise from George Mason. Keep in mind that Larranaga is widely viewed as the ambassador of the CAA (and mid-majors for that matter) and VCU's Shaka Smart is set to make about $500K more per year in his base salary.

Update: Steven Goff of the Post writes that George Mason granted Miami permission to talk to Jim Larranaga.

Update: According to 106.7 The Fan this afternoon some of the assistant coaches are looking for new jobs. Losing a guy like Chris Caputo would be a huge loss.

Update: Len Robbins from the NY Post reported that Coach L called a meeting to address the team tonight. Hard to think this would be for anything other than his departure from Fairfax.

Now Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports has stated there was so such meeting at George Mason. Wow.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recruiting Update

With Rashad Whack leaving the program and it being spring we cannot help but talk more about recruiting.  I agree with most of you that I love to see a big man be added to the mix for the next season but that wish might not be realistic at this point.  The coaching staff is surveying all options but it really comes down to finding the right fit for the program. If they cannot find it in a spring signee, they will hold on to the scholarship for next season. Still though, I'm sure the coaching staff isn't worried much about next season's roster when you factor in Sherrod Wright returning and the development of some of the reserve players we saw over the year.  

I noticed this morning that George Mason was one of the schools who had staff attending a workout for 2011 recruit Joseph Uchebo.  Uchebo is a 6'9" 240-pound center who was originally committed to NC State but was granted a release following the departure of head coach Sidney Lowe. No idea what Mason's chances would be of getting a kid like him but keep in mind that most other BCS schools have full rosters already set for next year and you never know if the Patriots could be the most appealing option at this point. calls him a double-double machine and rebounding seems his biggest strength. I think it's safe to say there isn't a Mason fan out there who wouldn't want to see this kid joining the Patriots' front court next season. 

For 2012 recruits I've been told by Alex Kline from The Recruit Scoop that the George Mason coaching staff "loves Georges Niang".  He visited Mason back in December but has since gained a lot more attention on the recruiting scene. Niang, at 6'7" 235, is another recruit with size that the Patriots could use.  He went on visits to Iowa and Iowa State last month so it appears another under the radar recruit the staff was following could be scooped up by the bigs.  


Monday, April 18, 2011

Isaiah Tate to play in 2011 Commonwealth Collegiate Challenge

Isaiah Tate will be playing in this year's Commonwealth Collegiate Challenge, an event that is basically an All-Star game for local college seniors. One team will be composed of seniors from VCU and Richmond and the other will be made up of players from other schools in Virginia.  You can see the full list of players here, the event will be happening this Thursday at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond.

Cam Long was originally slated to play in this but backed out for whatever reason.

Friday, April 08, 2011

George Mason will play Virginia Tech in 2011 NIT season tipoff

The rumors seem to be confirmed now that George Mason will get a chance to face-off against in-state BCS opponent Virginia Tech next season. We knew that the Patriots would be tentatively scheduled to play in the preseason NIT tipoff in the same pod as Virginia Tech in Blacksburg but now the Post is confirming that two teams will in fact be playing eachother as most fans had hoped:
"After taking some criticism for not facing some of the state’s top mid-major programs over the past few years, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team is scheduled to face George Mason as part of the NIT season tipoff, according to an athletic department source.

The game will be played in Blacksburg as part of a four-team pod to decide who advances to the tournament’s semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York."
Last season the Patriots' schedule of out of conferences opponents turned out to pretty decent despite not having any big name programs.  This match-up will hopefully ensure that Mason gets an early chance for a marque win. The Hokies will be losing a lot of their scoring production to graduation but I still feel this is a quality opponent to have on the schedule. Already having a trip to UVA on the schedule, the Patriots now will have two ACC teams on the out of conference slate, not too shabby.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

George Mason is not in this year's Final Four but they will certainly be in the TV coverage this weekend

George Mason might not have made it to this year's Final Four in Houston but that doesn't mean they won't be talked about this weekend. If you are trying your action on College Basketball Betting provided by BetUS then don't forget to catch Jim Larranaga, the Godfather of Cinderellas, will join CBS's official pre-game television coverage on Saturday starting at 4 p.m. He will join host Greg Gumbel and analysts Greg Anthony, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Seth Davis. I never thought I'd see Coach L on a TV broadcast with Charles Barkley, this could be gold.

There is also going to be a special presented by Fox Sports called "Mason Impossible: The Story of Coach L and the Improbable Patriots", great title. The program will be aired on Saturday at 12 p.m., Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and Monday evening at 8 p.m. Not sure from's release what channel this is actually going to be on. Is there a Fox College Sports channel? Nevertheless great to see Mason getting more free pub during VCU's run.

If you don't get the Fox College Sports channel you can watch the special here. Here is the first segment, you can watch the rest by clicking that link.

Also a great read today from Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times debunking the George Mason-VCU Final Four comparisons.

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