“I tell players all the time, when you’re in games, whether you’re ahead or behind, don’t play the score, play the game,” Larranaga said.
Outside of its sports, Miami has faced regular questions this season about the implications of money in its program, with Wong and Pack being two prominent examples of swings in new rules and state laws that allow athletes to profit from sponsorships. University boosters are eager to subsidize winning teams beyond the athletic department’s budget. In their small locker room at T-Mobile Center Saturday afternoon, Miami players and coaches denied — some of them embarrassingly — that some of the teammates’ newfound wealth factored into the team’s culture this year.
Do highly paid players buy their teammates dinner? Coty Kimble, an assistant coach, looked for an answer he already knew. “Hey, Christian, are you buying your teammates dinner?” asked Christian Watson, the new guard sitting nearby. Watson shyly said “No”. “No dinner. No dinners,” Kimble said.
Instead the group describes its culture as: quiet, together, relaxed. “We all love each other,” Wong said after Sunday’s game. “We’re all sticking together here.”
Still down by 8 points, Pack and Miller took the court in the second half laughing and chatting. At the deadline, even in defeat, the Hurricanes trudged to the sideline with their hands in their pockets, rarely shouting or gesticulating as Terry did when listening to Larranaga.
Larnaca marveled after the game about the way his players represented themselves as leaders, with Oumier admonishing his teammates from his coach’s seat during a timeout on Sunday.
Some of the secret to Sunday’s comeback may lie with Larranaga’s comments on mental health. He turned to close friend and sports psychologist Bob Rotella for advice on keeping himself and his roster calm, fashioning himself as a kind of behavior guru, players and coaches said this weekend.