Manny Diaz addresses Hurricanes’ post-bye blues with an eyebrow-raising, witty retort

Barry Jackson
·6 min read

A six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday:

Coach Manny Diaz, whose team is 0-4 after byes during his 19 games as head coach, said he and his staff have evaluated how the Hurricanes have handled byes.

And UM has made a simple conclusion from that evaluation: There’s nothing significant that needs to be changed.

Diaz said on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline that UM uses the same schedule and approach on bye weeks as the great Hurricanes teams utilized.

This week, the Canes are practicing three times. They’ll practice several times next week in advance of the Friday, Nov. 6 game at North Carolina State, though the NCAA is prohibiting teams from practicing on election day on Tuesday.

And then Diaz delivered the kicker to Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey:

“We’ve lost games after bye weeks because we’ve had a quarterback throw three interceptions.”

Jarren Williams, who transferred to Garden City Community College, threw three interceptions in two of those post-bye losses: 42-35 to Virginia Tech and 30-24 to FIU. Williams also broke curfew to go partying the night before the FIU game, according to multiple UM players.

The other post-bye losses: 28-25 at North Carolina in September 2019 and 42-17 on Oct. 10 at Clemson.

To attribute this year’s one post-bye loss to the bye would be foolish; UM likely wouldn’t have beaten Clemson with one week, four weeks or four months off.

Diaz suggested to Hurricane Hotline that UM has more team-first players. He noted past teams had some “guys more concerned about themselves.”

And Diaz added this, which I found interesting: “Getting better people, more like-minded people we figured would help our level of success. And during the first half of the season that has proven to be true.”

The UM football team has seen big improvement from several second-year players, led by defenders Te’Cory Couch, Jared Harrison-Hunte, Sam Brooks and Keontra Smith.

UM men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga is hoping for the same from his three sophomores: guards Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly and forward Anthony Walker.

The 6-3 Wong started Miami’s final 13 games and had a fantastic February, scoring 27 at Virginia Tech, 23 at Florida State and 21 against Boston College. But he ended the season on a 9-for-27 shooting slump and went scoreless in two of UM’s final three games, including the ACC Tournament loss to Clemson that ended Miami’s season before COVID-19 ended everybody’s season.

For the season, he averaged 7.7 points and shot 41.6 percent from the field in 31 games, including 13 starts. But he had 52 turnovers compared with 32 assists, an unacceptable ratio for a guard.

“He’s a very good athlete who can really score the ball,” Larranaga said in a phone conversation. “Once he got very comfortable and confident with what we were asking him to do offensively, he showed what he was capable of - midway through February to the end of the season.

“He had a lot to learn coming in. Some players can contribute right away like Bruce Brown. We’re very happy with his progress.”

Wong entered UM at 162 pounds but is now 182, which should make him a more stout defender. “He’s much more physically ready to contribute,” Larranaga said.

Beverly flashed early in the season -- including a 15-point game against UCF — and had some good moments in February, including a 20-point game against North Carolina State.

But he could never find his three-point touch and went 0 for 11 on threes in Miami’s final seven games. He logged just four minutes in the ACC Tournament game against Clemson.

Beverly closed the season averaging 7.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 40.5 percent from the field but just 21.9 percent on threes (14 for 64).

“Harlond is more ideally a two-guard, 6-5, very athletic, but because of his skill set we’ve been using him more as a point guard,” Larranaga said. “He can handle the ball and make the right pass. The challenge is to play the point guard position without turning the ball over.

“He’s naturally creative and likes to thread the needle. A great pass to me is one that gets completed. To some with as much creativity as Harlond, a great pass is a spectacular play. Simple is better.”

He had 71 assists and 69 turnovers as a freshman and that ratio must improve.

Walker, rated by Rivals as the No. 33 power forward in the 2019 class, had the least impact of the freshmen last season, averaging 3.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 12.3 minutes in 25 appearances, including no starts.

He reached double figures in points only once, scoring 14 in a blowout loss at North Carolina.

He’s competing for a spot in the power rotation but nothing is assured for a player who also visited Illinois, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island and VCU during recruiting.

“Last season, Anthony’s biggest challenge was learning how to give great effort every day,” Larranaga said. “This year been much more consistent in work ethic. As a result, he’s producing a lot more points and rebounds [in practice]. He’s competing for a lot of playing time [at power forward] but has serious competition from Sam Wardenburg and [freshman] Matt Cross.”

As for the football team, Diaz isn’t surprised several members of his 2019 class have started to emerge.

“That [2019 class] was the class that not having a spring hurt the most,” Diaz said. “Your true freshmen are newer and we had a lot of midyears, but that’s the group that came in and this is their time.

“There was not even 7 on 7 in the summer. It would make sense that as the year goes on the younger section of your team should probably start to contribute more and more. We certainly hope that continues to happen.”

Diaz cited defensive tackle Jared Harrison-Hunte, Jahfari Harvey (UM’s co-No. 3 defensive end, essentially), linebacker Avery Huff (playing only on special teams) and freshman Tirek Austin-Cave (also playing only on special teams) as players who have displayed improvement.

Here’s my Wednesday piece with Susan Miller Degnan on UM’s problems with targeting and Manny Diaz saying Amari Carter needs to change parts of his game.

Here’s my Wednesday piece on how the Dolphins have managed COVID-19, with notes.

Here’s my Wednesday Heat piece, with lots of draft notes and other things.

Here’s my Wednesday piece with Jordan McPherson on a significant Marlins personnel move.