Coach Nash: He’s His Own Man

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - April 25, 2007
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If there was any question that Bob Nash was simply a Riley Wallace clone and not his own man, that was quickly dashed when the new head coach declined to renew the contract of UH’s favorite basketball son, Alika Smith. Wallace took some of the steam off the decision on the Bobby Curran radio show, saying Smith was just a temporary hire to fill out the remainder of Wallace’s contract.

Still, it would of been much easier and more fan friendly to keep him on board. Good luck, Alika.

While it was nice seeing Smith on the sideline for the last two seasons - who can forget those four years of shake and bake and three-point shooting - he had only gotten his feet wet in Division 1 coaching and should be easy to replace. As a former ‘Bow, however, he was and always will be something special.

One can still recall the photos in the Dec. 2, 2005 issue of the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Alika and Anthony Carter sitting on the sidelines, laughing. Young, thin. Brings back great memories.

After a 26-year wait, it’s now time to see what Nash can do on his own. It won’t be easy with a team that lost its two best players and most recently a backup point guard. The loss of Dominic Waters is an inconvenience, but he too won’t be hard to replace.

This is not a bash Waters thing. Though he was the WAC Freshman of the Year in 2005, he struggled quite often under pressure and was never able to push Matt Gibson - who may be next year’s go-to guy - for playing time.

If Nash can retain recruits-in-waiting Nick Livi (16.5 points, 3.2 assists) and forward/center Brian Freeman (18.8 points and 13.3 rebounds), the team may be able to fill two of its three needs. Gary Wilkinson, a 6-foot, 9-inch Junior College All American at Salt Lake Community College, got tired of waiting for a coach and signed with Utah State. Riley Luettgerodt showed signs last year that he may be capable of filling in for last season’s Most Outstanding player, Matt Lojeski. And if Todd Lowenthal and Marquez Jackson can live up to their high school accomplishments, things may be O.K. The bench, however, will be thin, but that’s nothing new.

No matter the changes in coaching or the loss of Waters, there is a feel-good sense about Nash on board. Yes, he knows his way around the state and boosters and deserves the shot, but there’s more. Nash’s hiring makes a statement because the man and the hire seem to be the exception to the rule that now pervades university athletics. In an industry filled shady characters, and where commitment is a foreign word, Nash has stayed above it.

I’m not saying I know the new coach well. In fact, we’ve only spoken a handful of times and not for any real length. But if there is one word to describe Nash, it would be class. Bob Nash always seemed to carry himself with the dignity that was not lost on the man who hired him.

“He carries himself as a gentleman, he respects other people and I think it’s going to show in the student athletes who play for him as well,” said athletic director Herman Frazier.

Fraser said what impressed the committee and himself was that Nash came into the interview completely ready and without any expectation that the job was his for the taking.

“He walked into the room with the committee and he was very prepared. He had some outlines, he had some things ready to go ... He did his homework to figure out what he needed to do to convince me and the administration that it really should be his job.”

Some of that preparation was knowing what the boss wanted. At the press conference announcing his hire, Nash said the team would run a trapping defense and an offense that would look to press the ball up court on every occasion. Just the sort of thing that excites fans, boosters and athletic directors. One particular requirement for the job, ” ... someone who was going to fit into our community,” was a no brainer.

During Wallace’s last home game, fans held signs and chanted support for Nash. They got their man. Now will they support him? Four thousand a night is just not going to cut it.

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