HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Punahou fires basketball coach Tacon
A 21-win season can be a glass half-full or half-empty, depending on where you are and who you are.
For Punahou boys basketball, it wasn't enough. The school confirmed yesterday afternoon that coach Greg Tacon will not be retained for a sixth season at the helm.
Tacon's team missed the state tournament after losing to Saint Louis in overtime, 80-77, in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu third-place-tournament final. The Buffanblu were ranked No. 1 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10 for a portion of the early season, but back-to-back losses in league play sent them reeling.
Punahou was 21-8, including a 9-5 mark in the tough ILH. For most programs, those numbers are healthy.
At Punahou, where expectations are incredibly high, it was time to let Tacon go.
"In this decision we felt grateful for Greg's efforts after five years," athletic director Tom Holden said.
"Anytime we don't renew a coach's contract, it's a tough decision that involves lots of factors. We are extremely grateful to have had Greg's time and effort. He's done a terrific amount for the school, but the school is going in a different direction," Holden said.
"This is just hard, that's the only way to describe it. We certainly wish Greg the best," he added.
Holden would not speculate on who the next coach may be. An obvious potential candidate could be Chris McLachlin, father of current all-state candidate and forward Spencer McLachlin. The elder McLachlin led Punahou to state titles in 1975, '79 and '90.
Tacon was willing to comment on Punahou's decision only after the school made the news official.
"I'm extremely disappointed. I'm proud of the way our program runs and the way our kids represent the school, but there's some differences with the administration with the way I conduct business," Tacon said.
Punahou reached the state tourney last year after finishing second in the ILH, but lost to Baldwin in the quarterfinal round. This season, the Buffanblu were still ranked fourth by media and coaches after falling short in the regular season.
Tacon doesn't quite understand why he was released, but understood some of the rationale.
"They felt I didn't conference enough with the kids. They didn't like the way I interacted with my assistant coaches on the bench. They felt I was too boisterous, and even though my assistants are my best friends, they didn't agree with that," he said.
"I hear some of the things they're saying and I want to be objective with that. There are some factors that are out of my control, and maybe even their control."
With junior all-state candidates Miah Ostrowski and McLachlin, expectations were extremely high for Tacon, his players, and the program's supporters. But swingman Brenton Lee suffered an Achilles' heel injury, forcing Punahou to rely on some talented, but inexperienced low-post players.
"The facilities are great, the kids are great, but there's an underlying pressure that's there and nobody talks about it. That's the way it is, and it sucks. We all want to win, but the kids and the relationships are why we do this. If it's the winning that drives us, I don't want to be part of it," Tacon said.
He credited the players for sticking together through trying times, particularly when Punahou fell out of first place at mid-season.
"The kids came in and said, 'We lost to two good teams, and we're going to stick together and keep playing,' " said Tacon, who came to the islands from the Northwest, but plans to stay and watch his children graduate from high school here.
"For now, I'm going to regroup. It's the worst feeling in the world. I'm gonna concentrate on my kids," he said.
Coaching at another school hasn't crossed his mind.
"It's tough enough trying to go 20 minutes without thinking about what happened. I'm not sure about next year," he said.
"This one's a tough one to swallow. I don't feel I deserved it."
He replaced Alan Lum, who had a similarly successful track record and was released to make way for Tacon.