Sad But True: It’s Time To Can Nash

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - March 10, 2010
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Coach Bob Nash

UH needs to fire Bob Nash.

That is not an easy sentence to write. Nor is it one I make without trepidation or admitted sadness. I admire Bob Nash, especially Bob Nash the person. One could not make a better choice than sending their son to the man, to become a man.

But this is a decision that has to be made without emotion. What we want doesn’t matter.

The chances are good that by the time you read this, the difficult decision may have already been made. It will be a pink-slip press conference everyone dreads attending. But everyone will be there to record history, and to say thanks.

Tears will be honest and plentiful. Even those who have lost faith in the UH Circle of Honor inductee readily acknowledge that Nash is one of the most respected members of the community and the oft-heard label “Rainbow legend” is an accurate description.

In December, during the Diamond Head Classic, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting with former Hawaii guard Mark Campbell and his father. The elder Campbell, proud of his son’s accomplishments, was even more impressed with his son’s former coach. To him, no finer man has ever walked the sidelines of a college basketball game and no one is a better influence on young men than Nash. These were unsolicited comments - something he just needed to say.

Unfortunately, sometimes bad jobs happen to good people.

College athletics is a cut-and-dried business - win or get fired. And Nash hasn’t won enough. During his three seasons at the helm, the team’s conference winning percentage has fallen each year while attendance has continued to nose dive.

On the floor, the team hasn’t made the advances that a team boasting five seniors was expected to make.

The Rainbow Warriors have not been able to make effective halftime adjustments. They turn the ball over way too often, and defensive rotation has been lacking. Outside shooting has been poor, they can’t run the basic pick-and-roll, and to the obvious frustration of the head coach, the intensity needed to win at the Division I level has regularly gone missing. Recruiting also has been a problem.

While no one can fully predict the success of any athlete or whether they will embrace the inherent academic challenges, the responsibility falls on the coach. One can talk all they want about the effectiveness of the offensive and defensive game plans, but schemes mean nothing without talent.

The cruelest challenge Nash has had to face this year has been injuries. Almost no one has been unaffected, and in fairness to the coach it has been virtually impossible to accurately gauge his success with such a limited roster.

But athletics isn’t fair. So that’s the pressure facing athletic director Jim Donovan. Jerks are easy to fire. Dedicated family men who have been good ambassadors for their sport and university are much tougher fires.

And don’t think Donovan can move unilaterally.

Nothing happens at UH without passing through the political wringer, in which everyone has an opinion and an ego that needs massaging. Nash is not paid a whole heck of a lot, so eating the final year of his deal won’t be a major budget hit, but it also is not automatic in a department facing historic shortfalls.

UH has just two options: contract extension or dismissal.

An extension is not warranted according to the agreed-upon 18-win or a post-season birth mandate. Allowing Nash to serve out his remaining year in the hopes of a big turn around will just cripple recruiting and further retard the program’s development.

This is not an easy thing to say, but UH needs to move on for the good of the program. Thanks, Bob, for all you have done and for being a classy individual in a profession desperately in need of positive characters.

Mahalo and good luck. Whatever comes next, we know you’ll do well.

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