New York, NY—Countless people who were born in the Bronx have moved to other areas and achieved success in their chosen professions. One such Bronx native, Jim Larrañaga is the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes basketball team.
Larrañaga returned to the city of his birth this week as he led his team to the final of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Although the coach is 65 years of age, he has maintained a strong relationship with family and friends in New York. Prior to the final game on Thursday night, Larrañaga remarked, “I told my wife ‘Buy the tickets; distribute the tickets. This is a once in a lifetime experience for us in the NIT.’”
The Hurricanes reached the final on Thursday. They were nipped by two points by Stanford, 66-64. The close loss was a big disappointment, but the words uttered by the coach on Monday at the sumptuous NIT luncheon at the Marriott Marquis should be remembered by fans of the Hurricanes and their veteran coach, “It [NIT] can be a stepping stone for the following season if you have a young team. We only have one senior.”
Tuesday and Thursday’s games were the first for Larrañaga as a head coach at Madison Square Garden (MSG) despite his 44 years as a college coach. His memory of MSG, the one located on 50th Street and 8TH Avenue, goes back to his childhood, “My first trip to the Garden was with my family to see my older brother, Bob, who was playing on St. John’s, when I was 9-10 years old.” He remembers the game so well because of the influence it had upon him, “From that moment on, I wanted to be a college basketball player.”
A decade later, Jim also had that opportunity. During his sophomore and senior seasons at Providence College he played at the Garden. As a sophomore his team faced UCLA led by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the Holiday Festival. Two years later, the Friars lost to North Carolina in the NIT final.
His lengthy and very successful career asa college coach received its impetus whil
His lengthy and very successful college coaching career received its impetus while he was a student-athlete at Archbishop Malloy High School in Queens. He credits his legendary coach, Jack Curren, “as my inspiration as a coach.”
Larrañaga has built and improved programs at each of the institutions where he worked. He began as an assistant to Terry Holland at Davidson the year he graduated from Providence with a degree in economics, 1971. He remained there for five years. After one year in Belgium as a player-coach, he served as head coach at American International for two years.
In 1979, he reunited with Holland as his assistant coach at the University of Virginia.
After seven years at Virginia, Larrañaga received a Division I head coaching position at Bowling Green. His 170 wins in 11 seasons earned him a step-up to George Mason University. In 14 seasons his teams won 273 games, three CAA titles and a Final Four appearance in 2006.
He4 began his current tenure at Miami in 2011. Interestingly, working and residing in Florida is a return to the roots of his family. His ancestors, originally from, Spain, moved to Cuba. His father spent his boyhood in Key West, Florida, but then he moved to the Bronx, married and raised six children including Jim.
The coach spoke eagerly and fondly of his childhood in the Bronx at the luncheon, “I was born and raised in Parkchester. It was a wonderful place to live. I had so many friends. We played at “The East”, a neighborhood playground where many high school and Division I college players competed. I attended St. Helena’s elementary school where I learned a great deal. I went to Malloy because two of my friends recommended me to the school officials. I travelled to Queens on the Q44 bus. My family didn’t travel a lot except to Key West, where we visited family.”