Wallace is a yeller and a seller
APPARENTLY Riley Wallace has been known to raise his voice from time to time.
Really? I hadn't noticed.
"I yell at practice," he said. "I yell in the office ... I yell in the locker room at halftime. I yell in my sleep, my wife says. So that is my personality."
Well, we all know about that. In fact it's a good thing he notices that about himself. Because that's what a fan said, a fan who said he was not renewing his season tickets this year because he said that Wallace yells at his players.
Which is true.
But you could see why Hawaii assistant basketball coach Jackson Wheeler might be a little hesitant about passing along that particular phone message. Wheeler just wanted to save his boss the aggravation. It was one of those messages perhaps best left unreturned. In fact, it could have been summed up in one sentence:
"He doesn't like you at all, you yell at your players too much."
But Wallace pounced. "I feel like I could sell snowballs to Eskimos if I had to," he said.
He snatched the message. He dialed.
"This is Coach Wallace."
The guy was unflappable. He was ready.
"You got the message, huh?"
"Yes, I did ..."
"You're trying to turn me around and it's not going to work."
"I said, 'I'm still going to try,' " Wallace said. "I said, 'We need you, we love you and we want you out there yelling because our players respond to your yelling just like they respond to my yelling, and I have a deal -- ' "
"I don't want to hear your deals. I just don't like people who yell."
But Wallace wasn't giving up. Selling or yelling.
"I said, 'Well if you ever change your mind, here's my phone number and call me because we need you and we still love you,' and I hung up.
"So I lost one," Wallace said.
Probably not the first one. Because of the yelling.
But Wallace has his style and it seems he's settled into a niche.
These guys he has now are better because of it, he says.
"My players understand me and play and respond to it," he insisted.
Even the new guys.
Ahmet Gueye said after Friday's game against Hawaii-Hilo that he welcomes his coach's, um, constructive criticism.
Which is good, because Wallace has already gotten into him, too. When Gueye was losing steam, one day at practice, Wallace told him he didn't know why he recruited a guy from Senegal. Should have gotten a guy from Kenya, instead!
Gueye wasn't quite sure how to take that.
"He looked at me like the strangest thing," Wallace said.
As in, What does that even mean?
You know, because Kenya has so many great marathon runners ...
OK, that's not bad.
But the point is, Wallace is who he is and he decided long ago to embrace it. It works for him.
"For me, it's my style, it's my personality," he said. "There's no one in the state of Hawaii who will ever change that personality, including my wife, who's tried. I am me and I will go down as me."
So, yes, he's lost a few, along the line. But he's won far more.
He recalls the days of 1,200 fans at the Blaisdell Arena when you could really hear him yell.
"We started winning and stuck with those fans and they're still with us," he said.
"It is a basketball state, whether they say it's football or volleyball -- they give us our turn when the time comes," he said.
And now here he is again, heading into another one of those could-be-landmark games, Saturday against No. 4 Michigan State.
He hopes for a packed crowd.
He'll be yelling loudest of all.