Talk Is Cheap; Will Fans Respond?

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - January 23, 2008
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The University of Hawaii, faced with replacing a successful coach, goes with an 11th-hour in-house hire who embodies character and who enjoys widespread fan and team support.

Think you’ve heard this one before?

The only real difference between Bob Nash and Greg McMackin is that the latter’s hiring process did not have to be measured in glacial units of time.

Both are family men, have likable natures, are proven hard workers, loyal and may end up going at it nearly alone.

Much like Bob Nash, the question is now that the people have their man, will they support him in what could be a difficult rebuilding process? At this point early in the Nash tenure, company has been hard to come by.

Forget the idea of another 12-win season. Ten would be a Nice Dreams’ pipe dream. Anything in the neighborhood of seven or eight wins should be considered a success.

Unfortunately, those are not numbers that will keep the upper reaches of the stadium full.

In many ways, McMackin faces a bigger uphill battle than Nash, who was hamstrung by the loss of key players and an administration whose inaction forced the loss of touted recruits. While Nash will struggle to hit .500 - a problem McMackin should not have in the football-poor Western Athletic Conference - the former Fab Fiver did not have to face the loss of nearly every key player on the team.

Not only will Mac have to take his team into the lion’s den of a national title contender whose Heisman-winning quarterback was disparaged by the Warriors’ former head man, but he’ll have to do it with a team devastated by early leaps to the NFL, graduation and the completion of eligibility.

Mac lost a Heisman finalist quarterback, four starting wide receivers and an All-American offensive lineman. The defensive unit that went from a joke to near dominance must learn to do without nearly its entire secondary and defensive line. UH has depth in the pipeline, but Amani Purcell, Siave Seti, Michael Lafaele, Karl Noa, Francis Maka, Timo Paepule, Brad Kalilimoku, Gerard Lewis, Ryan Keomaka, Myron Newberry and Jacob Patek are not easily replaceable.

The new man has his work cut out for him. After finishing on the wrong side of ugly in Gainesville next fall, Mac’s boys will head out to Oregon State (9-4 in 2007) after a tune up game against Big Sky middleweight Weber State.

The WAC will offer up its usual assortment of decent to bad competition before the Warriors venture out on the road against traditional frustration-inducers Fresno State and the team that has owned the WAC since its inclusion, Boise State. Washington State and Cincinnati (ranked No. 17 in 2007) are sprinkled in and will be taking their shots at knocking off the Warriors at the Rust Palace before UH heads off to the Extra Home Game Bowl.

Keeping the Lee brothers, George Lumpkin and local boy-made-good Rich Miano in the fold will help limit the sticker shock that comes with the importation of a new model.

But losing coaches at the two most important positions - offensive and defensive lines - could have an impact, even if one of the potential candidates, former UH center Brian Smith, served his apprenticeship as a graduate assistant under O-line guru Mike Cavanaugh at Oregon State.

So the question remains. Will the fans be as plentiful as those fighting isolationism at Stan Sheriff Center?

It’s easy to say they will turn out in droves in year one of the post-Sugar Bowl era, but looking back at all the empty seats in a season boasting some of the most-capable and likable athletes in the school’s history, it is not hard to imagine plenty of elbow room come next year. Especially after an 0-1 start.

Mac and the team deserve better, but so does Nash. Fans are front-runners. That’s not going to change just because the new head coach has a personality that makes the former head man look like a bucket of wall-paper paste.

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