Monday, December 15, 2003


Rocha returns
to Hawaii

Former UH coach and
Oregon State player will be
at tonight's game

Oregon State paid for Red Rocha's plane ticket to Honolulu. He lives about 15 minutes away from the OSU campus in Corvallis, and he's a season ticket holder for Beavers' basketball games.

But that doesn't mean he'll be decked out in orange and black tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Rocha was invited by OSU to accompany the basketball team to Honolulu this week for the Beavers' game against Hawaii, a matchup that puts the former Oregon State standout and UH coach firmly on the fence when the teams take the court for the first time since 1984.

"It's going to be interesting going to the game because I have to be neutral," Rocha said. "You have to be neutral because which way do you go? You can't go one way or the other, and you don't want to really, so all you can do is be an innocent bystander."

Rocha, 80, a member of both the Oregon State Sports Hall of Fame and the UH Circle of Honor, was anything but a bystander in the development of the Beavers and Rainbow Warriors basketball programs.

Rocha, who was born and raised in Hilo, began his collegiate basketball career at UH. He transferred to Oregon State, where he played three seasons and was a three-time All-Pacific Coast Conference selection. Rocha was also named an All-American in 1947 while leading the Beavers to the NCAA Tournament.

He went on to a career in the NBA as a player and coach before returning to UH as head basketball coach in 1963. He spent the next decade building the program that had little funding, no scholarships and was playing a limited college schedule when he arrived.

It was during Rocha's tenure that UH started playing an all-collegiate schedule and advanced to the postseason for the first time with the "Fabulous Five" teams from 1970 to 1972.

"It's always good to see someone you respected as a person, as a friend, as a coach," said UH associate coach Bob Nash, who played for Rocha on the Fabulous Five teams. "When you're a coach you're a lot of things to a lot of different players. He meant a lot to me in terms of my growth and development and I always appreciate him and his wife for everything they did for me."

Rocha and legendary local broadcaster Chuck Leahey also co-founded the Rainbow Classic, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary later this month. The eight-team tournament helped the UH basketball program establish its identity in a town where high-school athletics, particularly football, ruled.

"That's why we started the Rainbow Classic, to bring some of those top teams in and let Hawaii see what it was like," Rocha said.

"The first year we had the Rainbow Classic someone asked when we were going to have it, and I said it was going to be at so-and-so time, and they said, 'You can't have it then, the Punahou tournament's going on then.' I said in most places the high schools follow the university's leadership in athletics, over here it's just the opposite and we're going to hope to change that."

Rocha was fired from UH before the 1973-74 season and moved to Corvallis after retiring in 1987 to be closer to his family. He has followed the growth of the UH program through the years, while hoping for a return to glory for Oregon State.

The Beavers have had 12 consecutive losing seasons, finishing no higher than fifth in the Pac-10 in that span. Second-year OSU coach Jay John, a longtime assistant at Arizona, went 13-15 last year and Rocha hopes he'll get the program turned around soon.

"With this new coach we're pretty confident he'll get it done, because it seems like he has what it takes to do it," Rocha said. "He took over a team that was in complete disarray. He straightened that part out, and now he's doing some recruiting."

Although he's living in Oregon, Rocha said he takes satisfaction in seeing where current UH coach Riley Wallace has taken the Rainbow Warriors as the team has advanced to postseason play each of the last three years.

"It's a pleasure that the University of Hawaii basketball program is where it is because I feel that I was a part of getting it there," he said. "Plus Hawaii's my home."

Oregon State at Hawaii

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: Stan Sheriff Center


Radio: Live, 1420-AM


Tickets: Lower Level, $16 (singles only); Upper Level (adult) $12; Upper Level (student, UH) $5; Super Rooter $9

Probable starters:

Oregon state (4-2)

Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Lamar Hurd (So.) 6-4 6.0 3.0 5.3
G J.S Nash (Jr.) 6-2 11.3 5.0 4.0
G Chris Stephens (So.) 6-2 14.5 3.0 1.8
F David Lucas (Jr.) 6-7 14.8 5.5 0.8
F Kyle Jeffers (Fr.) 6-9 5.5 5.0 0.8

Hawaii (2-2)

Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Logan Lee (So.) 6-1 2.3 1.3 4.3
G Michael Kuebler (Sr.) 6-4 18.0 3.8 1.5
F Julian Sensley (So.) 6-9 8.8 6.0 2.5
F Phil Martin (Sr.) 6-8 8.3 4.3 0.8
C Haim Shimonovich (Sr.) 6-11 10.5 7.8 1.8

Notes: This will be the first meeting between the schools since UH defeated OSU 81-64 on Dec. 21, 1984. Oregon State leads the series 21-5. ... Former OSU player and UH coach Red Rocha is accompanying the Beavers team to Honolulu. ... Vaidotas Peciukas has started three games for UH and is averaging 8 points per game. ... Lee ranks second in the Western Athletic Conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.4). ... Junior forward Jim Hanchett is OSU's top reserve, averaging 8.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. ... OSU's David Lucas is the son of former NBA player Maurice Lucas.


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