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A Final Four appearance is helping Jim Larranaga now, but it may not in later years.
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By Steve DeShazo
WASHINGTON--Coaching success is nothing new to Jim Larranaga or Anthony Grant. What they're learning, though, is just how short the shelf life is on national headlines--and how important it is to strike while the iron is hot.
Larranaga's good friend coach Bob Oliva of Christ The King High School in the Bronx, N.Y., gave him the bottom line during a conversation this summer.
"He said to me, 'You have a three-year window with high school kids. Anything that's more than three years old, they've never heard of,'" Larranaga said yesterday. "We have a three-year window to take advantage of, and we've already done that."
The goodwill from George Mason's stunning run to the 2006 Final Four is still evident in Fairfax. GMU is renovating the Patriot Center and building a support facility. A school-record 22 of the Patriots' games will be televised this season, and Larranaga has parlayed his one shining moment into a strong recruiting class.
That's enough to make George Mason the Colonial Athletic Association preseason favorite--ahead of defending champion VCU, which has four of its top six players back from a team that upset Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March.
Now, Grant and the Rams are trying to exploit their exposure before it becomes yesterday's news.
"I think it's certainly given us some added visibility," Grant said yesterday at the CAA's annual media day at the ESPN Zone in D.C. "The exposure we got certainly helps when we go out recruiting."
So does the return of the CAA's most dynamic player, electric junior point guard Eric Maynor. His brilliant play in the CAA final against GMU--"Eric Maynor ruined my summer," Larranaga said with half a smile--and in the NCAA tournament earned him an invitation to play on the U.S. team in the Pan American Games last summer.
"I've coached on those teams, so I know how hard it is just to get a chance to try out for those teams," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said.