Victory’s Just One Arnold Challenge

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - March 30, 2011
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A fan shows his appreciation for arnold with an oversized picture of the coach. Photo by Tony Grillo.

In the post-game news conference following UH’s loss to San Francisco in the tournament, a somber and reflective Gib Arnold evaluated the season saying the team met every goal in its effort to create a foundation for further success.

While it has only been one season and their success was against teams far removed from the Top 25, Arnold made progress. For the first time in years the Rainbow Warriors were exciting to watch and their commitment to defense paid off as the team finished eighth in the nation in field goal percentage allowed.

With an intense style of play and a staff constructed to take advantage of international relationships, the expectation of greater success no longer seems a far-fetched idea.

Despite the challenges of geography, a near nonexistent local talent base and budgeting concerns that make upper campus anything but attractive, bringing in consistently better talent won’t be as difficult as building a culture of fan support from among the current crop of attendees who vacillate between disinterest and slight amusement.

The challenges facing Arnold in this phase of his building plan were never more evident than in that final contest. Though leading for most of the game, the crowd of 6,200-plus only occasionally found the inspiration to offer any real vocal support, nor the time to stretch their legs in any real physical sign of emotion - that is, until the loss was determined and the exodus began. With 0.5 seconds left and UH’s hopes of a comeback against USF dashed, fans streamed en mass out of the arena, rushing to save whatever few minutes they could in their effort to exit the parking structure in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, a stunned Bill Amis looked toward the rafters, seeing his college career come to a disappointing end. No doubt the talented big man was just gazing off in disbelief and not focusing on the mass migration that was occurring before him and his teammates, but he had to have seen it.

The departures didn’t present a nice visual from court level, and must have looked - and felt - worse after suffering a final-second loss after a season exceeding expectations. In total, there couldn’t have been more than a few dozen who bothered to stay, stand and recognize the achievement.

And that’s the real challenge Arnold faces in creating a successful program.

The Stan Sheriff Center is a damn fine place to watch a sporting event, but it has long had a problem with fans who treat the arena seats as an extension of their living room.

While everyone has the right to sit quietly if they so wish, doing so does nothing to create a true home-court advantage or inspire recruits to make a 3,000-mile move.

The basketball staff is up against a hard fight. Student turnout, which is key to creating an exciting environment, is not high enough to warrant moving them closer to the action. Many in the lower bowl seem content to be merely spectators, and the general public hasn’t been interested enough to regularly push attendance over the 50 percent mark in years.

Plus, Oahu’s military has yet to embrace UH as their home team, and that’s a market waiting to be tapped. Trust me, I’ve lived in the barracks at Pearl Harbor and it certainly ain’t a place for quiet reflection on game night.

* A quick, slick side note on the NHL:

Winning the President’s Cup (given to the team with the best record, i.e., most points) has been a death sentence for many Stanley Cup hopefuls. Chasing the honor can leave a team weary and beaten. In the 24 years the award has been given out, only seven clubs have turned such regular season success into a Stanley Cup title.

Though history is against them, it is hard not to make Vancouver the favorite. The Canucks are crazy-good at home (25-8-5), have the two top scorers in the league in twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and goalie Roberto Luongo is third in goals against average and save percentage. If that isn’t enough, Vancouver is first in power play percentage and third in penalty killing - both of which are critical in the playoffs.

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