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March 23, 2016

Jim Larranaga

Louisville, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: Coach, welcome to Louisville.

COACH LARRANAGA: Thank you. Pleasure to be here, and we're excited to be playing in the Sweet 16. Excited to be here in Louisville at the Yum! Center. This is one of the homes of an ACC team, the Louisville Cardinals, and my Miami basketball team has played here exactly one time, a year ago.

We're looking forward to getting our second opportunity to play against a great opponent in Villanova.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

Q. When I spoke to you guys last week, you made a point after Davon Reed told me, he described this year as fun. You made a point of saying that means we're doing our job, because we want them to have fun. I saw the video from last night of your guys playing baseball. Why did you feel like last night, this point was where you really wanted to loosen them up and let them have some fun? Why was it last night?
COACH LARRANAGA: Last night was actually about the fifth time this year I planned it. But the other four times never came to fruition because something else came up and it interfered with what we were going to do.

We were actually going to do it at home on Monday, and the players had some obligations that prevented us from doing it at the end of practice.

So we decided that once we got here, we weren't planning any meeting last night, that we would do it after dinner. And it worked out great because there was a very nice ballroom that was available.

Q. How significant do you think it is to Sheldon, the chance to get back home to Houston for a Final Four, and how significant has he been to your team this season?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, I'm sure that's a great motivator for him, but I think it's a great motivator for any college basketball player to want to achieve Final Four participation.

I think in Sheldon's case, he's a fantastic player and just an absolutely tremendous young man. I love coaching him. I love being around him. He's got an endearing personality.

I said after our last game, like at one of our timeouts, he said let me take the ball out of bounds and inbounds and break the press. And I said, you're a very funny guy. You haven't done that in your entire college career and all of a sudden, now, in the round of 32, that's going to become a new role for you?

That's kind of his mindset. I want to do whatever it takes to win the game. And he would have been very capable of inbounding and handling the press. It's just not his job. That job goes to Davon Reed and Angel Rodriguez and Ja'Quan Newton.

So but he's very much fun to be around and he's a great teammate. He's very, very unselfish. I'm not sure there's another player in the country, and I don't know exactly what his point total is, but he's nearing 2,000 points on very, very few shots.

If you look at his shot attempts, compared to other 2,000-point scorers, I would guess he's taken at least a third less attempts from the field than anybody else that's ever scored 2,000 points.

Q. Jim, I hear you and Coach Wright are relatively close. Can you describe your relationship with him and also what concerns you most about Villanova's team.
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, I've known Jay a very, very long time, and we've been on trips together, we've sat together at AAU events. And I think he's just a tremendous individual, great coach.

He's built an incredible basketball program, a perennial powerhouse in the Big East. He has his team seeded very high these last several years, No. 1, No. 2. They've just done a great job.

Their style of play, I think, is very inviting to high school recruits. They do a lot of ball screens. They play multiple defenses. And we think we're very similar. We're almost like the mirror image of them. We do a lot of ball screen. We play a lot of man-to-man defense, but we'll change it up from time to time.

I've just enjoyed getting to know him and exchanging drills with him and talking basketball.

Q. Jim, when you took the Miami job, there were some people that were theorizing, oh, he wants an easy job on the way to retirement. Obviously, you haven't approached it that way at all. What was your mindset coming to Miami and what has kept you going at a high level?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, first of all, I don't know of a coaching job that's easy. What is it, if you coach at a high major level with one of the perennial powerhouses, it's easy? No. Those guys, the expectations on their shoulders is they got to win the national championship every year to meet others' expectations or it was a bad year or you've got to get to the Final Four.

If you're one of the Hall of Fame coaches who's built his career on annual success, the expectation is very high.

But someone who coaches at the low major or mid-major level also has a hard job because they're trying to win in a situation where they might not have all the resources that they need to really compete at the highest level, and yet they're still judged -- everybody in coaching is now judged on whether you make the Big Dance.

So there have been coaches being let go or changing jobs that have won 21, 22 games and the school says, it's not enough.

When I accepted the head coaching job at Miami, it had always been a dream of mine to coach in the ACC. There are very few opportunities, especially for someone in his 60s. When the Miami job opened up, I called a couple of my friends in Miami who are very successful businessmen and very tied into the university, they're alums, and they know all the people on the board of trustees and they know the president, and they put in a good word for me.

And then Doc Rivers recommended me and Arne Duncan recommended me. And through -- Donna Shalala, President Shalala was a big Democrat, so Arne helped me there. Shawn Eichorst, the athletic director is from Wisconsin and went to law school in Marquette, so Doc Rivers' recommendation was usually important.

Then when my staff and I got there, we just felt like, all right, we have a challenge. There are a lot of things we're told that probably couldn't accomplish. The first was we'd never be able to beat Duke or Carolina. Second one, we'd never be able to win an ACC regular season or tournament. And the third was we'd never be able to draw a crowd.

Well, we've had, I would say, moderate success against Duke and Carolina. We have a winning record against Duke and we're batting .500 against the Tarheels.

We've won an ACC Tournament championship and a regular season championship, and we're now selling out every game.

So we've accomplished an awful lot, but we still have a major goal in front of us, and that major goal, when we came, was to build a team that could win a national championship.

Q. Ten years down the road from George Mason, looking back over time, what do you think that meant to the tournament at large, just in the expectations of what schools could have? And, secondly, what personally has it ended up meaning to you all those years?
COACH LARRANAGA: I think Barry Collier said it best to me. Barry Collier's the athletic director at Butler University. He's the former head coach at Butler.

And after we made it to the Final Four in '06, he told me, he said, listen, you've just broken the four-minute-mile barrier. Now there's going to be other mid-major programs that think they can get there. And sure enough, four years later, Butler not only made it to the Final Four, but to the championship game and then repeated that feat in 2011. VCU did it in 2011 and Wichita State did it in 2013.

So I think we created an expectation that just because you're not a high major program, that doesn't mean you can't compete with the big boys and get to the Final Four or even win a national title.

And what it has meant to me is it's been a tremendous milestone in my career that has created a lot of opportunities and we've tried to take advantage of those opportunities, including coaching at the University of Miami.

Q. The four teams that are here are fairly upper-class dominated, and I'm wondering, from your perspective, what advantage does that experience bring versus teams that might have more NBA-type freshmen?
COACH LARRANAGA: Well, I know every team feels like they have NBA-caliber players, so there's a lot of confidence in a player with that ability. But the experience probably makes you hungrier, especially for a program like Ours that has never been to the Elite Eight or to the Final Four.

So hopefully our guys are very hungry and determined to accomplish something that's never happened in our school's history.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, we've got to let you go. Appreciate your time.

COACH LARRANAGA: Thank you, everybody.

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