It's not uncommon to see a son follow in his father's
footsteps as he begins his professional career. But in the case of George Mason
head coach Jim Larranaga, basketball is unquestionably a part of the family
business, and right now, business is good.
In his first season as head coach, his oldest son, Jay, has
led the Erie Bayhawks of the NBDL to their best season in franchise history and
a spot in the playoffs. It's there where they face the Reno Bighorns tonight in
a winner-take-all first round game at 10 p.m. eastern.
The seeds for Jay's basketball coaching career were planted
early, through his childhood which mirrored his dad's rise through the ranks in
the 1980s and 1990s.
"Jay has had basketball in his blood since he was a little
boy," the elder Coach L explained. "He was the ball boy at the University of Virginia in the early 1980s. When we
moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, Jay was in the sixth grade and after
every day of school he'd ride his bike to Anderson Arena where we were
practicing and play one-on-one with my manager, Todd Rinehart, and the two of
them became best friends. Todd beat him every day until the eighth grade when
Jay grew taller and was able to start winning - it really helped him develop as
All the while, Jay was paying attention to the action on the
court, even when he was watching from afar.
"One of the things Jay would do is sit there next to me
watching video and I would point out things to him," Coach L said. "He learned
the fundamentals from watching video constantly. We would talk about it in the
car going to school and he would go on the road with me recruiting. I remember
one time we went to see a kid named Todd Leary in Indianapolis. Watching the game, Jay said to
me, "That guy is pretty good, but you should really recruit the big guy - Eric
Jay went on to become a standout basketball player,
graduating from St. John's Jesuit High School
in Toledo as
the school record holder in a number of categories. He then matriculated to
join his dad at BGSU, completing a four-year career which saw him play
alongside future NBA lottery pick Antonio Daniels and finish among the top
3-point shooters in program history. From there, Jay moved onto a 12-year
overseas professional career, including time spent as both a player and coach
on the Irish National Team, where he got to play alongside his younger brother
Jon, a standout in his own right for the Patriots from 1999-2003, for the first
"Jay and Jon never had a chance to play together as kids but
they had the wonderful opportunity to play together on the Irish National
Team," Coach L said. "It was a real thrill for my wife and I to see the two
boys playing side-by-side in the starting lineup and representing the country
Even when Jay was far from home, he still kept an eye on his
father's career and even made sure to offer some helpful hints.
"One of my fondest memories was in 2006 when we earned an
at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and were preparing to play Michigan State," Jim Larranaga said. "Jay was
playing pro ball in Italy
and he wanted to be a part of it, so he did his own evaluation of how we could
beat Michigan State. He and Jon were on the phone and
they each gave me their own scouting report that was very helpful.
"After we beat Michigan
State they did the same thing for the North Carolina game. The
night before we were having our team meeting and when the meeting ended, Jay
gave me a call. It must have been around 4 a.m. in Italy and Jay asked if I got the
e-mail he sent me. When I said I hadn't, he asked if we could pull it up to
talk about his report. When I suggested it might be too late, he barked into
the phone, 'Do you want to win or not?'
"After that, I went downstairs, printed it out from the
business center in the hotel - which was closed at the time and I had to get
the hotel clerk to let me in - we went through it. He had two very astute
observations -- first was that UNC was
terrific at everything except that their freshman point guard Bobby Frasor was
prone to turnovers and we really needed to scramble against them.
"Then, Jay warned me not to do it in the first half," added
Coach L. "When I asked him why, he explained that Roy Williams is a great coach
and he will be able to adjust to it at the half. So that's what we did, we held
off until the second half and ran off eight straight points to take our first
lead of the game. At one point, UNC was running a high-low offense and we were
switching the post men. Jay was on the phone from Italy
to Jon, who was at the game inside the University of Dayton Arena,
and Jay started barking, 'Tell Dad to quit switching the high-low!'"
"A few minutes went by - Jay asks again, 'Did you tell him?'"
Coach L continued. "Jay got so mad when Jon said he couldn't and after a while,
like a good younger brother, Jon just appeased him, saying "Yeah, yeah I told
Mason, of course, went on to win that game and two more as
the Patriots made their historic run to the Final Four in Indianapolis. With the five-year anniversary of that run
just passing, it's symbolic then that in his first year at the helm, Jay
Larranaga is looking to lead his Erie Bayhawks deep into the postseason.
Once Jay became head coach of the Irish National Team, he
knew he really wanted to make coaching his career, his father explained. "We
are very, very proud of him and what he's been able to accomplish in just his
first year of coaching in the United