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UM rallies in final minutes to beat Clemson in ACC opener as Tigers AD wooed by Miami

·4 min read
ANDREW ULOZA/FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

The Miami Hurricanes rallied in the final three minutes to win their ACC home opener 80-75 against Clemson Saturday afternoon, but some of the biggest UM boosters were not at the Watsco Center to see the exciting ending.

They were busy trying to lure Tigers athletic director Dan Radakovich back to UM, where his career began in 1983. According to multiple sources, talks continued Saturday between the two sides and Miami is prepared to offer big money for Radakovich, a highly respected administrator who makes $800,000 annually.

Asked about reports that Radakovich was perhaps headed to UM, Hurricanes basketball coach Jim Larranaga said: “I am not privy to any information from anyone in the know, but what I will tell you is that everybody I have spoken to that knows Dan raves about him.

“(UM Board of Trustees member) Paul DiMare raved about the job he did at Georgia Tech and then repeated at Clemson. I spoke to Craig Littlepage, who was the AD at Virginia, who knows Dan very well and he raved. I spoke to (WQAM radio announcer) Joe Zagacki, who has known Dan since 1982, and he raved.”

Larranaga said he asked Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell “if this were to happen, what do you think? And he raved. He is a heck of a businessman with tremendous experience. I look forward to finding out if it’s Dan or who our next leader will be.”

Brownell said he has not spoken to Radanovich about the UM job offer and that he first saw the news on the team bus on the way to the airport Friday.

“I don’t know if it surprised me -- probably a little bit,” Brownell said. “Dan’s the kind of guy who has been highly successful and he’s going to have opportunities…Whatever he decides I’ll be happy for him. He’s been really good to us and however he wants to finish his career he has earned his right to do that.”

Brownell called Radakovich “an outstanding leader…first-class, top-notch AD” who hires good people, helped improve facilities and does not micromanage.

In addition to offering his thoughts on Radakovich, Larranaga had plenty to say about his Hurricanes, who trailed Clemson from the opening whistle until the closing minutes, when Jordan Miller, a George Mason transfer, drilled a three-pointer off a Tigers turnover to give UM its first lead, 71-70, with 2:55 to go.

The Watco Center crowd erupted.

Larranaga called it “one of the finest comebacks” of his long career.

“We were playing a quality opponent like Clemson who makes it very difficult to guard them inside and outside,” he said. “They’re a fantastic three-point shooting team, 10th in the country, and at halftime were shooting 50 percent from three. And they have an unstoppable force inside in PJ Hall, who is a very hard matchup for us.”

Miami trailed 40-34 at halftime and Clemson had opened a nine-point lead with five minutes remaining. It appeared the game was out of reach for the Canes. But Sam Waardenburg, who led UM with a career-high 18 points and four threes, scored five straight points and made a steal that led to a Charlie Moore driving layup to close the gap to two points.

Miller’s shot then pushed UM ahead during a 15-2 run that included five Clemson turnovers. The Canes (6-3) made five free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the win over the Tigers (5-4), who were led by Hall with 18 points and seven rebounds and USF transfer David Collins (15 points, 9 rebounds)

Kam McGusty had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists for UM. Miller and Wong both scored 13 points.

“My hat’s off to my players because when we went back by nine, we didn’t hang our heads, we stayed patient, worked really hard defensively and got some stops and we were able to score efficiently,” Larranaga said. “Sam’s been playing fantastic. We’re putting the ball in his hands more. He’s a key component of our strategy this year.”

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