With every win that pushes Miami (FL) closer to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and each loss that nudges George Mason further toward mediocrity, Patriots athletic director Tom O’Connor must think to himself, “What have I done?”
Under former head coach Jim Larranaga, George Mason became a mid-major college basketball power over the last several years. The Patriots’ run to the 2006 Final Four is one of the greatest Cinderella stories in NCAA tournament history and George Mason’s basketball success didn’t end there. In Larranaga’s final six seasons just outside Washington, D.C., George Mason reached the NCAA tournament three times and averaged 22.3 victories per year.
Before Larranaga arrived in 1997, the program had exactly one NCAA tournament appearance ever.
And Larranaga’s success on the hardwood had a huge positive influence on the school as a whole. After the Final Four, George Mason received the “Flutie Effect” that turned the little-known school in Fairfax, VA, into a national brand.