A Few Fixes For Nash, UH Hoops
Wednesday - March 18, 2009
It seems like a cruel twist of fate that at a time when economic uncertainty could cost the school an athletic squad, the University of Hawaii’s men’s basketball team is facing its most serious challenge since Riley Wallace rescued the program from the abyss 22 years ago.
Still, it’s a much better situation than the one facing the Wahine cagers.
When Bob Nash took over for his longtime boss, it was hoped the Rainbow legend would help the program take the next step into becoming a consistent March Madness participant. To say the least, that has not happened. Since taking over, Nash has led this team to 24 wins versus 36 losses. Worse yet, in those two season the Rainbows have ended their campaigns with losing streaks of seven and five games respectively. This year’s end-of-schedule skid was the second time this season UH has lost as many consecutive games. UH, far from a basketball powerhouse, has not seen such a level of futility since Frank Arnold’s last season and Wallace’s first when the team managed just 11 wins in those two seasons. Not surprisingly, fans are getting restless. That is, those who bother to show up or to comment. This season’s average attendance of 5,120 was the lowest since the 1988-1989 season when the 17-13 Bows brought an average 4,045 to the games.
Nash is currently in the second year of his initial three-year contract, and water-cooler conversation centers around whether the former Detroit Piston should be canned, extended or be left alone until the end of next season while hoping for improvement.
Of the choices, the worst would be to let the coach hang in the wind. Even with assurances from the athletic department, unless his current deal is extended any show of support will be meaningless, and that will be critical in recruiting.
Another option, firing Nash, doesn’t make much sense either. With the budget deficit the school finds itself in, having to pay a buyout along with a new coach would be nearly impossible. Plus, any coach, so long as they don’t do anything illegal or immoral, deserves more than two years to implement their ideas. Heck, Fred VonAppen got three and he didn’t get his first season sabotaged by an athletic director suffering from contract phobia.
The university’s only real option is to extend Nash’s contract with the clear understanding of what is expected. By giving him an extra year now it would provide Nash with at least three full recruiting classes to make up for the first season’s sales job that forced him to take players he may not have been interested in had he gotten the job in a timely manner.
Any success for the 2009-2010 Bows is going to depend on the off-season work by the players already on the roster. And even if they improve athletically, their biggest challenge is mental. As a team they lack confidence, are often so afraid of making a mistake they panic and make bad decisions late in the shot clock or at the end of games.
Roderick Flemings needs to develop a consistent outside shot. Petras Balocka can score inside and out, but he must stop trying to draw fouls on every play. Adhar Mayen needs to forgo threes in favor of a mid-range jumpers. Kareem Nitoto has to stop forcing shots and passes, Paul Campbell picks up too many fouls, and Bill Amis needs to get stronger.
For the program to go forward, fans and administrators need to determine what is an acceptable level of success. Coaching men’s basketball at UH is the toughest job on lower campus as each must deal with general fan disinterest and a total lack of local talent to go along with the usual challenges of distance, anonymity, facilities and a crumbling academic infrastructure.
Since Red Rocha took over the program in 1963, let’s call it UH’s modern era, UH has won 585 and lost 611. Under Wallace, who seemed to be equally loved and hated, the Rainbows won 55 percent of their games and averaged 16.7 wins per season. Wallace also won two regular season WAC titles, sent three teams to the NCAA and six to the NIT in his 20 years.
Fans and administration should expect as much from Nash.
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