RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Bonding of UH coaches a big plus
As his time with the Rainbows winds down, Wallace credits his assistants
The future will have to wait at least a little while longer.
With Hawaii basketball coach Riley Wallace nearing the end of his career leading the Rainbow Warriors, the team's assistant coaches are also facing uncertainty beyond this season. But those thoughts are on hold for a few more games as the 'Bows look for a strong finish to the regular season and a run at next week's Western Athletic Conference tournament.
"We're just concentrating and trying to stay in the moment and get these last three games and see how far we can go in the WAC tournament," said UH associate coach Bob Nash, who will be among the applicants to succeed Wallace. "There's plenty enough time when this is all over that we can start thinking about our own personal futures and where we want to go from here."
The Rainbows (16-12, 6-8 WAC) close the regular season with games against Idaho on Thursday (7:05 p.m.) and Boise State on Saturday (5:05 p.m.) at the Stan Sheriff Center.
UH's Ahmet Gueye and Matt Lojeski will be honored after Saturday's senior night game. Wallace will also receive what figures to be an emotional send-off as he coaches his final game at the Sheriff Center.
The opening for men's head basketball coach was posted last Friday, according to the entry on the University of Hawaii's online list of employment opportunities. The job is also posted on the NCAA's Web site. The closing date for applications is March 21.
Nash said he'll get his paperwork in order before the deadline but is focused on the task directly ahead of the team.
"It's not something I want to distract from what I need to get done with the team, because it takes a lot of energy to prepare these guys and if I'm thinking about my own personal future then I'm not fully into what we're doing here," said Nash, who is in his 25th year as a UH assistant
"I'll make sure I get my résumé and letters in and all that kind of stuff and let people know that I seriously want to be considered for the job. It is important because there are a certain number of weeks to get it done so I do need to get on it, but I can't do it at the expense of our team."
Wallace's 20-year tenure as UH head coach will end with the conclusion of the Rainbows' season and he credits much of the program's consistency on the stability of the staff. Along with Nash, fellow associate coach Jackson Wheeler is in his 17th season, while Alika Smith, a former standout player, is in his second season.
"They love Hawaii and they know and understand it, that's why we've had eight straight winning seasons," Wallace said. "Because they've figured out what it takes to win here and be consistent and put a good product on the floor."
Though the future of the program isn't clear, Nash and Wheeler continue their duties looking ahead to next year with scheduling and recruiting, respectively.
Nash was recruited by Wallace (as head coach of Centenary) in the late 1960s, but decided to play at UH, where he was a member of the storied Fabulous Five. Nash and Wheeler worked together at UH under Larry Little and Nash stayed on through Frank Arnold's tenure. He was then Wallace's first hire when he took over in 1987.
Wheeler joined the staff in 1990 and has spearheaded the team's recruiting efforts, drawing eventual All-WAC players such as Trevor Ruffin, Tony Maroney, Anthony Harris, Anthony Carter, Troy Ostler and Michael Kuebler.
Smith teamed with Carter in the Rainbows' Dynamic Duo backcourt that led UH to back-to-back 21-win seasons and is third in school history with 1,415 points. After a stint as a Hawaii-Hilo assistant, he returned to Manoa early last season.
"One thing about our staff is we like coming to work, we like being in the office," Wheeler said. "We're probably in the office more than any Division I staff in the country because we just really have a great environment. We're really good friends, we respect each other, and we can get on each other and we can get mad, but we're always a group."
Said Nash: "You don't stay in those relationships if your personalities don't mesh and I think our personalities have meshed. We have our different niches and our own attitudes and the ways we do things but for the most part the number one thing is we care about the program and want to see it grow and succeed."
The annual Rainbow Warrior Awards Banquet will be held April 12 at the Hawaii Prince Hotel. Tickets are $500 for a table, $50 per adult and $30 for children under 10. For tickets, call the UH basketball office at 956-6501 or Chuck Gaty at 225-2500.