The Miami Hurricanes in the past two weeks have taken the college basketball world by storm. When you think Hurricanes, you automatically think of Michael Irvin and the boys back in the 1980s. The Hurricanes of the 80s and 90s were one of the greatest college football dynasties in history, but did you know starting in 1971, the Hurricanes basketball program was shut down? No Miami(Fla) basketball played a game from 1971 all the way until the Hurricanes took the floor for the first time late in 1984 for an exhibition game against the Australian National team.
Rick Barry was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the mid-60s and is the most famous Hurricanes basketball player of all time. I know when I bring up the fact that the Hurricanes shut the program down in 1971 and didn’t start it up again until the 1984-85 season most are surprised. Today we are going to take a look back at the history of the Miami Hurricanes basketball program, and you will know why if Head Coach Jim Larranaga is dancing to “One Shining Moment” next Monday night, you will know why it’s so special!
For those who remember Miami basketball, Rick Barry will always remain a familiar name.
Barry was a 6 feet 7 inch forward who came from Roselle Park, N.J., in 1962 and led the Hurricanes to two NIT appearances and an impressive 65-16 record under Coach Bruce Hale during three seasons. Leading scoring with a 37.4 average during his senior year, Barry became a consensus All-American before going on to become one of pro basketball’s most prolific scorers; he even married Hale’s daughter!
Surprisingly, Miami never made the NCAA tournament while Barry was there. Their only appearance came in 1960 when forward Don Hickox averaged 22.1 points a game but they fell short against Western Kentucky in the opening round.
In 1968, Hale departed Miami basketball to coaching the Oakland Oaks of the American Basketball Assn., leading to another slide in attendance numbers. Only 587 people showed up for a game against undefeated Fordham – then sixth-ranked in the country – in December 1970; by 1971, it had dropped sometimes just 75 fans attended a game with an average season attendance of 1,166; this continued throughout their 7-19 record and deficit of $130,417 that year.
In those years, the Hurricanes rotated their home games between Coral Gables High, Dinner Key Auditorium, Dade-North High and Miami Beach Convention Center.
On April 22, 1971, the board of trustees unanimously voted to “temporarily suspend” basketball. There was little attempt to revive it until 1983 when Sam Jankovich from Washington State University joined as athletic director.
Jankovich said, “I accepted this job with the understanding that basketball would be brought back to the athletic program.” he wanted it to be self-sustaining but he still desired its return.
After three months, the board reinstated volleyball as a sport.
Twenty downtown businessmen, known as the Basketball Founders, pledged a combined $12,500 each over four years to support this growing program.
On November 7, 1974, the University of Miami unofficially unveiled their men’s basketball team for the first time since 1971. With this milestone in mind, fans eagerly anticipated seeing who would make up the starting lineup when play began on Nov. 7.
Kevin Presto, a 5-11 blond playmaker from Kennewick, Wash., was the first player out to center court. Dennis Burns of Sicklerville, N.J., followed suit and raced toward Presto for what would prove to be Miami basketball’s first high five.
They missed.Coach Bill Foster, who left Clemson and the highly regarded Atlantic Coast Conference two years ago to reinstall a basketball program at football-rich Miami, smiled as he remembered this familiar experience: before things get better, they might get worse.
Burns made amends on the opening play of Miami’s 72-70 victory against Australia, taking a pass from Presto and driving to the basket with his left-handed dunk. It proved to be an incredible comeback!
The last time Miami University played basketball, dunks were illegal and high-fives weren’t even considered.
On Friday night, Miami played its regular-season opener before a crowd of 4,984 at 5,109-seat James L. Knight Center and defeated The Citadel 85-77. Burns scored a game-high 24 points while Presto added 22.
Foster had experience with attempting to do things most would not even consider.
Bill Foster was known as Clemson Bill because another Bill Foster coached at Duke while this Bill was the head coach at Clemson.
Clemson Bill Foster’s first experience with doing something others would have scoffed at was at North Carolina Charlotte in 1970-71, when he took a Division III team and jumped to Division I. In his fourth year, the team was 22-4. In 1976 They were playing for the NIT Championship in Madison Square Garden against Kentucky, and the following year the had led UNCC all the way to the final four, where they lost to the eventual National Champion Marquette Warriors on a controversial last shot.
Miami University has experienced great success under Jim Larranaga’s direction since 2011, when he took over in Coral Gables, Fla. On his watch, Larranaga has guided Miami to seven 20-win seasons – accounting for 33% of their all-time total (19). Additionally, he drove them to all four 25-win campaigns, three Sweet 16 bids, an Elite Eight appearance (2022) and 14 wins against Duke/North Carolina. A two-time ACC Coach of the Year, USWBA District IV Coach of the Year and 2013 consensus National Coach of the Year, Larranaga led his Hurricanes to both the 2013 ACC regular season and tournament titles in 2013.
Larranaga is not the only successful Hurricane head coach. Leonard Hamilton led Miami to a co-BIG EAST regular season title and Sweet 16 appearance in 2000 – five years after garnering UPI National Coach of Year honors. Bruce Hale held Miami’s wins record (220) until 2022 while helping them to four postseason appearances during five years during the 1960s. Hart Morris (a UM Sports Hall of Fame member alongside Hale and Hamilton) led Miami to their first 20-win season in 1946-47, while Tom McCann went 30-7 during two seasons (1928-29 & 1931-32).
So, the Hurricanes aren’t without tradition; it has just been, let’s say, sparse.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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