Thursday, February 19, 2004


Hawaii women's basketball coach Vince Goo said yesterday that this will be his last season coaching the Rainbow Wahine.

Goo to retire
at end of season

After all the wins and graduates,
the 17-year coach hopes to leave
as quietly as he arrived

The countdown to the end of an era began yesterday.

After two decades of coaching the Rainbow Wahine basketball team, Vince Goo said this will be his last season. Hawaii has six regular-season games left, beginning with Boise State today at 7 p.m.

"It's about time," said Goo, who made the decision to retire on Sunday and told his players on Monday. "It's about time for someone new to come in and get us to another level, move the program forward."

He was that person 17 years ago.

Goo was an assistant for three years under Bill Nepfel before taking over the program in 1987. Goo said not many people showed up at the press conference that announced his appointment.

"I think there was one Polaroid camera and one instamatic (at the press conference)," Goo said, tongue-in-cheek. "When I started, there was not a lot of excitement."

A lot has changed since Goo took over a program that was 144-127, but some things remain the same. His humble demeanor and sense of humor haven't left him despite taking the Rainbow Wahine to new levels.

Goo, 57, downplayed yesterday's announcement, speculating that not many cameras would be at a low-key press conference before practice. There were five there along with half a dozen reporters.

"It's been a privilege to be part of it. I didn't have the right to be part of the program. It's a privilege," said Goo. "When I do retire, the program will continue. I was fortunate to be here and be the next head coach 17 years ago. That's why me retiring is not a big deal."

The numbers would say otherwise for the winningest coach in program history. Though Hawaii has fallen on hard times this year with the fourth-youngest team in Division I basketball, Goo's record (331-162) speaks for itself.

During his tenure, Hawaii has had 11 seasons with 20 or more victories. In 1989, his second year as head coach, Goo took Hawaii to its first-ever NCAA Tournament. The following year, Hawaii entered the Top 25 poll for the first time after defeating nationally ranked Virginia in the preseason.

"That was a first for us, so it's always nice to be the first to do something," Goo said. "And we've had some outstanding years along with that second year."

The Rainbow Wahine have been to the NCAA Tournament five times and the WNIT five times. Goo was named the 1998 Western Athletic Conference West Division coach of the year. He earned Coach of the Year accolades three times when Hawaii was a member of the Big West (1989, 1993, 1994).

But keeping track of wins and losses or favorite memories isn't Goo's style. There is just one statistic he boasts of. The 41 Rainbow Wahine who have completed their four years of eligibility have all earned degrees. Goo's graduation rate is 100 percent.

"We're perfect in one thing," said Goo. "And not too many people can say they are perfect in any thing, so that has to be our proud moment."

His attention to detail and perfectionism have led to success on the basketball court even when the Rainbow Wahine weren't supposed to win. Goo has always shaped offenses to the talent he had and not the other way around.

Goo has never wavered in his dedication to working hard. He would put in tireless effort in watching an opponent's game tape 20 times to find a detail that would allow Hawaii to score two points or prevent two points.

It was part of his philosophy of being simple but thorough and putting his teams in a position to win. Goo usually arrives in the office at 5:30 a.m. during the season to prepare.

"He's not going to be beat by lack of preparation," said Wahine associate coach Serenda Valdez.

"I really liked his philosophy, the way he taught the game," said former assistant and current Portland State head coach George Wolfe. " I liked his knowledge, his confidence in what he was doing.

"Year in, year out, our teams were always considered some of the best prepared teams when we were in the Big West, the WAC.

"He's a very thorough tactician. He's very driven to win, but he was going to do it in a way that was consistent and would be solid. It wasn't like you would get one big win and there would be a down period where you lose three or four in a row."

If he had lost three or four in a row that often, Goo wouldn't have been at the helm of the program for long. The Wahine coach said he was hoping to last five years when he first took over the program. When Hawaii takes the court in the WAC tournament, it will be his 500th game pacing the sidelines as head coach.

Goo kidded with this year's team to not celebrate his departure too loudly. Instead, most will probably have to fight back the tears.

"I'm really sad. I know he did stay this year for our team," junior Jade Abele said. "I'm a little bit selfish in hoping he'd stay for my senior year.

"It's really sad to see him go, but he's had a great career here at UH. I knew that he was contemplating it, but there's always that shimmer of hope in the back of your mind that you're really important enough to change his mind.

"The team is handling it pretty well. Vince is cracking jokes about it, but deep down every time he says, 'Don't celebrate', I get a little glassy-eyed."

It isn't just current players who have strong affection for Goo.

"At first, because I was a walk-on, I was very intimidated by Vince. But, as I got to know him, I learned you could joke around with him," said former Wahine guard Tiffany Fujimoto, who is now a nurse in California. "His door was always open. You could always go to him with any kind of problem or concern and he would give you good, honest advice. He's like my family away from home, kind of like an uncle to me.

"He taught us it wasn't only about basketball. He wanted us to be good students and good people and that's what I took away from the program. He wanted us to grow in every aspect of being a person and he helped me do that."

Added former Wahine Crystal Lee: "I definitely think he is the type of coach who will be remembered in a positive light. He had his priorities in order. He wanted all his players to graduate. That was his No. 1 priority and it shows a lot of integrity."

But Goo wasn't always forthright to his players. Wolfe recalls an incident when a player's parents asked the coaches to bring homemade barbecue to their daughter.

"Val (Agee) never got that food," Wolfe said. "We kind of both broke into it. One thing led to another and by the end of the drive, we just decided not to tell her about it. We still feel really guilty about that, but I'm going to blame Vince for the whole thing."

Vince Goo's career record

Overall Conference
Year Won Lost Pct. Won Lost Pct. Finish
1987-88 14 14 .500 8 10 .444 7th
1988-89 20 10 .667 13 5 .722 2nd-tie
1989-90 26 4 .867 16 2 .889 2nd
1990-91 12 15 .444 6 12 .333 8th
1991-92 25 7 .781 13 5 .722 2nd-tie
1992-93 28 4 .875 17 1 .944 1st
1993-94 25 5 .833 16 2 .889 1st
1994-95 6 20 .231 4 14 .222 9th
1995-96 23 6 .793 15 3 .833 2nd
1996-97 21 8 .724 12 4 .750 2nd-tie
1997-98 24 4 .857 13 1 .929 1st
1998-99 17 10 .630 9 5 .643 3rd-tie
1999-00 20 9 .690 11 3 .786 2nd
2000-01 26 8 .765 12 4 .750 2nd
2001-02 23 8 .742 14 4 .833 2nd-tie
2002-03 16 14 .533 9 9 .500 4th-tie
2003-04 5 16 .238 3 9 .250
Totals 331 160 .674 191 93 .673

NCAA Tournament appearances: 1989, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1998.
WNIT appearances: 1992, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003.


Selection committee will
determine replacement

The line to follow in the footsteps of Vince Goo isn't very long, yet.

The Rainbow Wahine basketball coach announced his retirement yesterday and Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier knows he has some big shoes to fill.

"He will be sorely missed. He's a guy who stands for great principles," Frazier said. "He's been great to the institution.

"This is a loss for us. He runs a program with minimal problems. I don't have to worry about the kind of athletes he recruits."

What Frazier will worry about next is assembling a selection committee to find Goo's replacement. Frazier hopes to have a committee in place in 30 days and would like to find a replacement by July.

When asked if he had a person in mind, Frazier replied, "It's kind of early and a lot of people don't know about it yet. The phones will probably start ringing tomorrow. ... I will look and see who's an up-and-coming coach. And that's not to rule out anybody currently on this staff.

"This has happened so quickly that I have not had an opportunity to visit with them (Wahine assistant coaches Da Houl, Gavin Peterson and Serenda Valdez)."

Goo said that he would be happy to advise if his opinion was sought. For now, he knows where his assistants stand.

"I know they're interested in remaining with the program, all three of them," he said.


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