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Thursday, April 14, 2005



RAINBOW BASKETBALL


Deal sets up Wallace
milestone

Pending the Regents’ approval,
the basketball coach agrees to
a contract that will take him
through his 20th season at UH

Hawaii basketball coach Riley Wallace isn't taking anything for granted in the process of securing a new contract, but neither is he planning on vacating the post anytime soon.

A new two-year deal for Wallace is working its way through the UH system and must still be finalized and presented to the Board of Regents for approval before going into effect.

Wallace's current contract expires on April 30 and UH athletic director Herman Frazier has said he hoped the matter would be completed before the summer.

"There's a process it has to go through," Wallace said.

Wallace's current contract pays him a base salary of $210,000. Should a new contract be approved, it would take Wallace to the 20-year mark with the Rainbow Warriors. He just completed his 18th season as UH head coach and owns a career record of 314-268.

"There's not many," Wallace said in reference to college basketball coaches who have spent two decades at one school. "It tells you you're working in a nice place and you're working with good people and you've done a good enough job to hang on. I've had opportunities to go elsewhere ... I just liked what I was doing."

The Rainbows have played in the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament six of the last nine years and posted their sixth straight winning record with a 16-13 mark this season. UH's first win next season would give Wallace 300 at the school.

At the National Association of Basketball Coaches meetings at the Final Four in St. Louis last month, Wallace received an award for reaching the 300-win plateau last season.

Wallace is already far ahead of the pack in length of service among Western Athletic Conference coaches and would stretch his lead by returning for a 19th year.

Last season, Rice's Willis Wilson was the only other WAC coach with more than a decade on the job. Rice joins Conference USA this summer along with SMU, Tulsa and UTEP.

The WAC welcomes three new schools -- Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State -- next season and will feature three first-year coaches -- Steve Cleveland (Fresno State), George Nessman (San Jose State) and Reggie Theus (New Mexico State). After Wallace, the WAC coach with the next longest tenure is Keith Richard, Louisiana Tech's coach for the past seven seasons.

Big weekends: Recruiting has been the focus of the UH coaches since the end of the season, and they'll look for an assist from the current Rainbows as recruits make their official visits over the next two weekends.

While coaches spearhead the recruiting process, Wallace said player hosts play a pivotal role in convincing recruits to join the program. Julian Sensley has been a regular host during his UH career and Wallace said Jeff Blackett also was an effective host.

"They're keys," he said. "Because you show them the school, you show them the academics, and the facilities and things like that. Then the social side of it and the actual talk of basketball comes from the players themselves.

"The players have all done a good job of selling, because they don't look at it as competition, they look at it as helping. If you've got players who are afraid of competition then you're probably not going to win."

Recent scandals involving other schools have resulted in stricter controls on visiting recruits. UH now requires recruits to sign an agreement, and they are required to be in their rooms by a certain time.

One player who won't need to be sold on UH is Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) High School senior Hiram Thompson, whose visit this weekend figures to be more of an orientation.

Thompson, a 6-foot-4 point guard, plans to make his commitment to join the program official this afternoon when he signs a national letter of intent at his home with a gathering of family, friends and coaches. He'll then fax the letter to the UH basketball office to complete the process.

Early start?: Pending athletic department approval, the Rainbows could open the WAC season earlier than usual next season. UH is working on moving a home game with Utah State to mid-December to avoid a crunch in February when the Rainbows are scheduled to play an ESPN Bracket Busters game.

The Utah State game would break up a 10-day lull leading up to the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, which is set for Dec. 20-23.

The Rainbows still have a couple of holes to fill in the nonconference slate. Penn, the Ivy League's NCAA Tournament representative this season, could fill one of the open spots with a late-December visit. UH opens the season Nov. 19 against Final Four participant Michigan State.

The WAC schedule is still fluid, as television opportunities would cause game dates to be shifted. The conference will be part of ESPN's Big Monday package next season, taking the place of the Mountain West Conference. The recently launched ESPNU could pick up WAC games as well.



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