Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Head Coach Candidate Profile: Jay Larranaga

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Background

Jay Larranaga stems from a family with a bit of basketball history. His father, Jim Larranaga, a long time College Basketball coach has run the Miami Hurricane’s men’s basketball programme since 2011, leading them to the Final Four in 2023. Meanwhile, his son Jay followed in his footsteps, albeit spending more time as a player before making the sideline his home.

After not hearing his name called on draft night in 1997, Jay Larranaga headed to Europe and found great success, becoming an all-star in France, and winning titles in Spain and Italy. He also captained the Irish national team between 2001 and 2006, before becoming a player-coach for his nation in 2008. Two years later, the then 35-year-old came back to the United States to take over a job in the D-League.

With the Erie BayHawks, Larranaga clinched two consecutive playoff berths, setting a team record for wins in a season at 32. In the summer of 2012, Jay assisted for Ukraine’s men’s basketball team under the helm of former NBA head coach Mike Fratello, before signing as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. He stayed in this position for nine years, despite job offers from multiple colleges and interviews with numerous NBA franchises including the Hornets. Finally, in 2021 the Irishman took his talents to the Los Angeles Clippers’ bench where he serves as an assistant to this day.

Links to the Charlotte Hornets Organisation

Larranaga doesn’t have any link to the Hornets’ front office, but he has a very strong connection to Charlotte as a whole as he was born in Queen City. He has also previously interviewed with adviser Mitch Kupchak and now minority owner Michael Jordan, although their current level of influence on the franchise’s basketball operations are unknown.

What People Say

– Brad Stevens (Celtics GM): “He’s super smart. He works exceptionally hard. He always is looking proactively at projects. He’s great with individuals and helping individuals get better. His player development stuff is off the charts.”

– Tyronn Lue (Clippers head coach): “Jay is a guy who thinks outside the box, a really good communicator and a hard worker. He’s done a really good job being under Doc first, but also under Brad Stevens.”

Coaching Strengths

The 49-year-old has played a major part in the Celtics’ success over the last few years, even after leaving the organization. He was largely responsible for Jayson Tatums’ development playmaking-wise and turned the former and his teammate Robert Williams III into some of the league’s better defenders at their positions. In general, Larranagas’ work with individuals has been spoken of very highly.

Another major strength of his is the experience he possesses. Four years of playing in college, and twelve years spent in all kinds of European clubs at different levels of success add up to a pretty impressive resume, not to mention the time he had to learn from some of the best in the business in Boston and Los Angeles. His level of knowledge would be incredibly important to a young team like the Charlotte Hornets.

Coaching Weaknesses

As is the case with a lot of the names being thrown around, Larranaga lacks any real head coaching experience at NBA-level. But he has been around one of the league’s most admired leaders in Tyronn Lue, a Championship winner in Doc Rivers, and a front-office expert in Brad Stevens for multiple years. That time should make up for a lot of the qualms a complete newcomer would normally have. Additionally, his head coaching tenures at the Irish national team and the Eerie Bayhawks have proven that he’s able to control a locker room.

One could also argue that Larranaga has had a very easy-going NBA career so far, being part of two winning organizations and only experiencing two losing seasons. The fact that he was put into a functional system twice allowed him to focus more on defense and individual development, rather than having to deal with the big picture like Steve Clifford and James Borrego have had to do in Charlotte recently. It remains to be seen if he can stem the tide when the going gets rough.

Conclusion

The son of a college basketball great, Jay Larranaga has had an equally as impressive career at the very least. He garnered years of experience as a player, before becoming one of the league’s most renowned assistant coaches, while still getting in some head coaching reps along the way. There are some concerns to be had about if he can be more than a player development guy and rather a real culture changer. But with a resume like his, it’s hard to see why he couldn’t do the latter. With Jordi Fernandez and Nick Young out of contention, it seems more and more likely that Larranaga could become the NBAs first Irish head coach.

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