Is Miami now a basketball town?
By: Matt Blue
Miami has always been known as a remarkable football town enriched with unparalleled history and tradition. The Dolphins have notoriously been the talk of Miami and most of South Florida. But is the tide finally turning? Could the Miami sports scene be shifting gears? Let’s take a good look at the state of Miami’s professional sports teams as well as the Hurricanes football and basketball programs. Consider this as a State of the Union for Miami sports.
The HEAT is the most famous, recognized and admired professional sports team in South Florida today. The HEAT’s star studded roster has garnered an astronomical amount of support from the locals. Not only do they look incredible on paper, but they have also played inspiring basketball on the court. The HEAT has advanced to two straight NBA Finals in the Big Three era and they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals last year.
The HEAT has rewarded its fans immensely by bringing star talent to South Beach and by expressing a true commitment to winning multiple championships. They have done a masterful job complimenting its three superstars with unselfish supporting cast players that have bought into the HEAT’s culture and system. The supporting cast has shown they will do whatever is necessary to win. Tremendous sacrifices have been made by just about everyone that has made the decision to come to Miami and be a part of this NBA Dream Team. The HEAT literally became instant contenders overnight after LeBron announced his much maligned and ridiculed Decision. Even though the Decision was ripped apart nationally, it was welcomed with open arms by a fan base that was desperate for a winner. Ever since Pat Riley pulled off the impossible, the HEAT organization has brought nothing but excitement, entertainment and joyful glee to a city that had been hit hard by tough economic times, local corruption and chronic losing. Right now the HEAT currently owns the best record in the Eastern Conference and they are on a 14 game winning streak. They look very poised to be playing basketball in June.
Miami Hurricanes Basketball
All it took for Jim Larranaga to achieve his lifelong goal of coaching in the ACC was his Wikipedia page. This is by far one of Larranaga’s favorite stories to tell. While the fans and the media were clamoring and lobbying for Frank Martin, Larranaga was busy plotting his way to Miami. The University of Miami liked what they saw and the rest was history. Larranaga has used advanced analytics, inspirational speeches and team building methods to elevate the Miami program to national prominence. The basketball program at Miami was absolutely dormant before Larranaga’s arrival. Every home game Miami players looked up into the stands and saw virtually nobody. The programs identity before the arrival of Jim Larranaga, was empty seats and apathy. This year Jim Larranaga has orchestrated a miraculous turnaround with his senior core of talent. The Canes started 13-0 in the ACC with convincing wins over powerhouse programs Duke and North Carolina. Miami even picked up a signature non-conference win over NCAA tourney bound Michigan State. The Canes went almost two months without losing a single game. They also hold one of the best RPI’s in college basketball. The U will look to continue their success into the NCAA tournament. College basketball in Miami has been completely revitalized and the team’s success this season could greatly help their recruiting efforts moving forward.
The Rest of Our Sports Teams
The Miami Dolphins are going through a transition period after suffering consecutive losing seasons. The good news for the franchise is that the Dolphins have created 14 million in cap space and they also currently have 9 selections heading into this April’s draft. Even though the future may look promising, it seems like the Dolphins are always playing for next year. Dolphins fans expect General Manager Jeff Ireland to be very aggressive in Free Agency. The team has a number of needs to address via the draft and free agency. Right now, Jeff Ireland and Steve Ross have an enormous amount to prove to a fan base that has been kicked in the groin on numerous occasions. A once storied franchise has been stuck in a never ending cycle of mediocrity. Here is a little factoid that is very symbolic of the Dolphins struggles; they have had 17 different starting quarterbacks since Dan Marino. The undefeated 1972 season seems like a lifetime ago for the Dolphins fans that were alive to witness the magic from that season.
And then there is the Miami Marlins, the baseball franchise that is formerly known as the Florida Marlins. The Marlins have the most bizarre history of any professional sports franchise. Even though they have won 2 championships in their relatively brief history, they have been plagued with terrible ownership, incompetence from upper management and apathetic fans. In all fairness to Marlins fans, they have been alienated and ostracized on numerous occasions. The two mind boggling fire sales have chased many Marlins fans away. Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria has infuriated South Floridians by manipulating the city of Miami into building him a new ballpark with taxpayer dollars. Loria has pocked revenue sharing dollars and TV money while keeping a flimsy payroll. Loria bewildered us all by blowing up a team that had just been put together the previous season. The likes of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Hanley Ramirez Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez were all dealt within one year. Basically, the Marlins blew up the formula after three months. Loria never gave it a chance to work. As a matter of fact, the entire thing was a hoax to sell tickets. This is why the contracts were back loaded and not only that, the Marlins refused to give anyone a no trade clause. As long as the Bernie Madoff of baseball is running the Miami Marlins, they will have trouble regaining the trust and support of the fans.
The Florida Panthers went 10 straight years without going to the playoffs. Last year they finally ended the drought before they ultimately ended up losing to the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers have a very interesting young group of players. However, they have had trouble generating excitement in South Florida for hockey. The cure for the franchise could be stability and winning. The Panthers have not only failed to win games over the years, but they have also gone through different ownerships, front office personnel and players. Even after the extended NHL lockout, the Panthers were hoping they would be able to continue the momentum they had begun to fuel last season. That hasn’t been the case so far due to the Panthers current struggles.
South Florida is a region that has always embraced winning. This is why the HEAT and the Hurricanes basketball program have been at the forefront of the South Florida sports fan’s conscience. A new era has been embarked upon. Basketball is alive and well in South Florida.