CORAL GABLES — Miami coach Jim Larranaga said his legal team believes he is ‘Coach-3,’ as noted in the Department of Justice report about the FBI investigation into college basketball’s underbelly.
“I am grateful we have come to that conclusion,” said Larranaga, “as I know I did nothing wrong, and it is comforting to know none of my assistants are connected in any way.” He added that the U.S. Attorney’s office has not confirmed the identity of ‘Coach-3.’
In a press conference at the Watsco Center, Larranaga addressed the media for the first time since the Sept. 26 complaint was unveiled in New York. He uncharacteristically read from a prepared statement as he revealed the above. He fielded questions from local reporters afterward about the emotional impact, but referred all inquiries about the investigation to his statement, which said he appreciated that the media had a job to do, but that he would not offer comment.
Larranaga’s full statement (story continues below):
“I cannot state more emphatically that I absolutely have no knowledge of any wrongdoing by any member of our staff and I certainly have never engaged in the conduct that some have speculated about,” Larranaga said, holding a piece of paper with both hands.
“I have tried to live every single one of my 68 years on this earth with integrity, character, and humility. … To have those values that I cherish so dearly even questioned, is disheartening and disappointing.”
‘Coach-3,’ in the FBI report, was said to know about an Adidas executive and others conspiring to funnel some $150,000 to a 2018 recruit, later learned to be Orland0-based five-star wing Nassir Little. Little and his father signed statements, provided to The Post by Larranaga’s legal team, saying they accepted no money, never discussed payment with any of the men charged, and that they and Miami did nothing wrong.
Asked about his relationship with former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, who was one of 10 men indicted by the FBI on conspiracy and fraud charges, Larranaga declined to comment, referring to the statement.
“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larranaga said.. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”
Both Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown, the two players Miami made available to the media, said they were not aware of the details of the investigation. They said practice has been as usual, and they’ve noticed no change in their coach.
“Around us, ‘Coach L’ isn’t going to show he’s hurt,” Newton said. “He’s so happy to be around us.”
Larranaga said he briefed his players on Sept. 26, along with UM Athletics Director Blake James. “They have nothing to do with this,” Larranaga said. “It hasn’t been talked about it since.”
Asked how the investigation has affected recruiting, Larranaga said it has been a negative, but his staff is “very strong and resilient, and we’ll figure out a way to recruit successfully.”
UM does not have a verbal commitment for 2018. It had an official visit set up the weekend of Sept. 9 with five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley, but it was canceled when Hurricane Irma forced UM to evacuate campus.
Asked if he has received messages of support from colleagues, Larranaga answered, “Yes.”
Asked if that has helped, Larranaga answered with the same, flat, “Yes.”