Nash is the natural choice
YOU would think, on paper, that if anyone was going to give Bob Nash his shot it would be Herman Frazier.
It's too perfect. How could Frazier not pick Nash as Hawaii's next men's basketball coach? Their career paths are parallel arcs. They have the same résumés, the same histories.
How could Frazier not pick Nash?
You've heard about walking a mile in a man's shoes? Frazier has walked Nash's mile. When he goes over that résumé, he'll be looking in the mirror. Professionally speaking, Nash is Herman Frazier. Or rather, not so long ago, Herman Frazier was Bob Nash.
They were athletic heroes who returned to work for decades at their alma maters. Nash has been an assistant with the Rainbows for 25 seasons now. Frazier spent 23 years in the athletic department at Arizona State, rising all the way to Senior Associate Athletics Director.
Frazier was the ASU track captain who even brought home Olympic gold. Nash, he's on Manoa's Mount Rushmore team, part of state history, one of Hawaii's Beatles of basketball, once had 30 rebounds in a game as part of the legendary Fabulous Five.
OK, things weren't exactly the same. No, Nash never owned a local sports-hangout restaurant (Herman had "Herman's" in Tempe). Nash married a UH cheerleader.
Both were synonymous with their schools. Both longtime loyal assistants, good soldiers, pouring their hearts into the place, occasionally daring to dream about someday getting that top job.
And so this is easy. It's perfect. It's a no-brainer. In hiring Nash, Herman Frazier would be, well, kind of hiring himself.
Of course, these things are never that simple, even when they should be. If this situation was simple Nash would have already been announced (and that would certainly help with momentum and recruiting and good feeling and all the rest).
But no. It's not that simple. Athletic directors want to hire their own guys. It's one of the perks. It's what you get to do. There is all the budget crunching and the numbers headaches and the media scrutiny and the handshakes and the fundraising and the forced smiles and the late nights and weekends and issuing statements through a spokesman. It's a rough job. But then you can high-five a player or share a close moment with a co-worker. And perhaps, most gratifyingly, in the aftermath of a big win, look over at a joyous coach and think, "Yeah, I hired that guy."
Yes, athletic directors live to hire their own coaches, which is why Riley Wallace had "you're out in two years" written into his last contract and Frazier started making "I'm the decider" noises when the best coach in the history of the program started hinting publicly that he might not be quite ready to step aside.
So, forget it. He's stepping aside. Athletic directors like to hire their own coaches. That's that.
And no, the No. 1 assistant is generally not looked at as hiring your own guy even if he does remind you of yourself.
Now, Nash should be the guy regardless. He's the right man. It's the right thing to do. He's given his heart, his soul, his love, his sweat, his tears, and now even his DNA (son Bobby wears the great No. 33) to this team. He is UH basketball. And even put that aside -- it's ridiculously difficult to put together a winning Division I hoops program in the middle of the ocean with not much of a talent base and Nash is one of the few people on Earth who knows how.
When the 'Bows beat No. 4 Michigan State last season (the guy who's leaving's 300th win at the school) all involved said it was Nash's scouting and preparation that gave the Spartans no shot.
And yes, say what you will about Wallace -- and I say he's an institution, he's given you 320 wins -- but Nash isn't Riley Wallace. He's his own man. And he's worked half his life for this chance.
Ah, but Herman Frazier has walked this path, worn those shoes, been Bob Nash, knows that sometimes there are no fairy tales in this life.
Frazier had given his heart to Arizona State, moved up the ladder at his alma mater for 23 years. The top job opened up. He was the No. 1 assistant, the loyal soldier, the logical candidate, the sentimental choice. He was ... he was Bob Nash.
Not so long ago he was Bob Nash.
Frazier should think long and hard about that when he pores over that resume and looks at himself.
No, Arizona State did not pick him, for that top job, after 23 years. It opted for an outside candidate, put together a selection committee, found a bigger name. That's what happens, in situations like this. Almost always.
But you'd think if anyone would give Nash his shot, the man who'd already lived it would.
And maybe someday after a big win Herman Frazier might look over at a joyous Bob Nash and think, "Yeah. I hired that guy."