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Jim Larranaga leaving George Mason for Miami

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - 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.

George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor said Larranaga called Friday morning to say he accepted Miami's offer.

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 Ohio State.

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Now he moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference, where the Hurricanes were 43-69 the past seven seasons under Frank 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.

On the surface this move makes little sense considering Larranaga had rejected overtures from power-conference schools before, notes senior writer Gary Parrish. Combine that with the fact that the core of his 27-win team was returning, and there's no obvious reason for Larranaga to leave one of the best CAA jobs for one of the worst ACC jobs ... except for money.

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 source told Parrish that Larranaga had a rocky relationship with O'Connor, which helped push this over the edge, and, the source added, it got "nasty" at the end.

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

He 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. Attendance at George Mason was a big problem when Larranaga arrived but improved substantially, especially after the run to the Final Four.

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.

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