"Big Dance" Interviews: George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga

March 15th, 2011
Earlier today CHN writer Jon Teitel caught up with George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga as part of his "Big Dance" interview series. Coach Larranaga's Patriots won the CAA regular season title by two games but were bounced in the CAA semis by eventual runner-up VCU. George Mason is the eight-seed in the East and will take on Villanova Friday in Cleveland.

Jon Teitel: You became a household name during your magical run to the Final Four in 2006. What did you learn from that experience about what it takes to succeed in March?

Jim Larranaga: I think it is important to be playing well and feel good about yourselves. It is also important to play well on both ends at the court, especially rebounding on the defensive end.

JT: Earlier this month you were named CAA Coach of the Year. What did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor?

JL: An individual honor like that is really about the group, which includes both players and assistant coaches.

JT: You won 16 straight games before losing to VCU in the CAA Tournament. Do you feel like your team is playing its best basketball of the season right now?

JL: I thought we played our best in late February when we beat VCU and Northern Iowa on the road. We are hoping to play at that level or beyond come Friday.

JT: On Friday in Cleveland you will face Villanova, who is the first team to ever lose its final five games and still make the NCAA Tournament. Do you feel fortunate to be catching the Wildcats at the right time or are you worried that they will take out their frustration on your team, or other?

JL: One of the things about losing is who did you lose to, and Villanova played an incredible schedule this season as most of their conference losses were on the road to fellow tournament teams. They are a tested NCAA Tournament team, and we know it will be a major challenge for us.

JT: As an assistant at Virginia who went to the Final Four twice in the early 1980s you got to work with a great big man in Ralph Sampson. How will you try to stop another great big man (Jared Sullinger) if you beat Villanova and have only two days to prepare for the Buckeyes?

JL: Your preparation in the tournament is about being as good as you can be. We do not try to make a lot of substantial changes in a short times as we want our players to be confident in what has worked so far.