Wallace not so easily dismissed
WHAT to write about. What to write about. Hmm. If only there were a topic ...
"Right now I haven't made my mind up," Riley Wallace says.
"The contract states exactly what it states," Herman Frazier says.
And away we go.
I was mildly surprised in the summer of 2005 when Riley Wallace signed a deal that said he'd retire two years later, at the end of this coming season, his 20th as Hawaii's head basketball coach. Mildly. He'd talked about eventually winding it up, maybe when he hit 65, maybe after a good round number, like 20 years -- and the math matched. And everybody knows new athletic directors -- like, say, for example, Herman Frazier -- don't mind nudging incumbent high-profile coaches toward the door so that the AD can make a splash hire of his own. And it wasn't going to be June Jones. Wallace -- he'd be 65, he'd have 20 years, Frazier has a list of names in his desk drawer -- he's successful, but it made sense.
That's business. What this was was Wallace getting a nice raise for agreeing to go without a fight. Frazier making a deal that allows him to hire his own guy in two years, no headaches. Business. There you go.
Again, I was surprised that Wallace would agree to have his options taken away -- but mildly. I guess if he was going to go in two years anyway, he might as well make it official and get a fat contract along with the koa bowl.
So when Wallace first started making noises that he might not be ready to quit after this year, that he hasn't made up his mind, that you never know, well, I thought it was a little silly. Hadn't he read that contract before he signed it? Hey, he made the deal. He's gone. If options were what he wanted, then why did he agree to the deal? What the heck was he doing?
But now, the more he does it, the more I'm starting to think, this could be interesting to watch.
You can tell why Frazier goes to great lengths to avoid actually speaking to the media, preferring to share his thoughts through prepared statements via a third party or fax machine. I say that because it's easy to spot an actual voice-activated Frazier quote, as opposed to the sanitized, on-paper press release. You can tell the difference. The release is dizzying in its press releaseness. With the real thing, you can almost hear him saying it.
"The contract states exactly what it states," he told
our Jason Kaneshiro this week at the Western Athletic Conference Basketball Preview in Salt Lake City. "And I think what everybody should be focused on, including Coach Wallace, is getting the team through this basketball season. I think campaigning for a new contract through the media is not how we do things at the University of Hawaii."
Can't you just hear it? I made that deal so this wouldn't happen! We have a contract! What is he doing?
But back to his point. He's right. No one at UH EVER uses media coverage as an advantage when working toward a contract. Never. No one.
Hold on, I've got to read something from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 20, 2005: "Frazier said reports that he was being considered for the athletic-director jobs at Colorado and Arizona State this spring helped speed the negotiations for his new deal."
And he's right, he doesn't want it to turn into a public campaign, because if it does I don't see Herman Frazier winning on points. Oh, Frazier will ultimately "win," because he is what President Bush calls "the decider," and in the end what he says goes. But when you get into these kind of power struggles, yeah, you can "win," but that isn't always what you'd hoped. Like, for example, the taking away of the Rainbow. (How's that working out?)
After all that Wallace has given, if he has another great season, and wants to stay, he'll still be pushed out the door? Well, the contract states what it states.
Wait a minute, let me go back to that quote. Is Herman Frazier lecturing Riley Wallace on "how we do things at the University of Hawaii"?
No, no. That must be a typo. That couldn't be right.
Why is Wallace doing this? Well, I'll ask him tonight. But for now the short answer is probably, "Because he can." He's Riley Wallace. He's an institution, his legacy is already intact. He stood up at the Bob Wagner press conference, and many people never forgot. He's not universally beloved, but he's got a lot of goodwill in the bank. He's not a guy you take on in a public campaign, contract or no.
And he's got nothing to lose. What are they going to do, not bring him back? He already has that deal. In fact, he already signed that deal.
And it appears that even if he isn't going out on his own terms -- he's going out on his own terms.
This could be interesting to watch.