Hawaii fans will not forget Riley Wallace
THEY kept getting the hustle plays, the second chances, the putbacks, the steals. No way they were losing this night. No way. And then Bobby Nash, in the lane, it was good, and the foul, he slammed to the floor and screamed. He rolled on the court, like a kid who was so happy he couldn't keep it inside, writhing with the emotion of the moment, yes, yes, yes. And then the seniors left the court, then all the starters. The guys going in who would someday be able to say they'd played in Riley Wallace's last game.
WAL-LACE! WAL-LACE! WAL-LACE!
And then the last seconds ticking way, it was over. Like that. Twenty years. The last home game.
"If I cry tonight," he would say, "it's because I love you all."
When they came back out, Wallace kept blinking, blinking. The tears coming now.
He took deep breaths. Shoulders heaving.
They gave him the ball. Lojo looking at him with that kolohe look.
RI-LEY! RI-LEY! RI-LEY!
A 3-pointer. No good! Arms out. What the heck.
The festivities. Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson invoking Haskins, Tarkanian, Tubbs, Majerus. Wallace.
"The day that the WAC creates a hall of fame, you will be one of the first inductees," the commish said.
The boosters gave him a Wyland print: the rainbow after the storm.
Vince Goo. Riley had tied his UH wins record, this night.
Former players. Piling on the leis. Some brought their kids. More hugs for the old man.
"Every one of them means something to my wife, Joan," the coach would say.
The assistants. Wallace wiping his eyes now.
Someone kept blowing the pu.
Bob Nash. A giant hug. A standing O.
You could hear the galas in Nash's voice. The emotion.
"We want Nash!" came the chant.
The KFVE video played. The former players all gathered around Wallace in his chair, bringing their kids to him like he was Santa Claus.
Stan Sheriff on the video screen. Wallace with red hair.
He walked over to Mrs. Sheriff, pointed. Applause.
And Wallace blinked back more tears.
All his players gathered around him now.
Then the montage. Riley's greatest hits. All the worst shouting, all the best stomps. And then -- wait, he's going for the coat -- he's going for it! He threw it! It's gone!
A real-life ovation for a video jacket toss. We went nuts.
A kid looked over at the old man in the chair. This must be the coolest man in the world.
Then he took the mic, teased his old players, thanked his wife. Remembered Stan Sheriff. Praised everyone. Herman Frazier, too.
"What we together did, you fans," he said at last, harking back to his first game, when there were 1,600-something in the Blaisdell stands.
"If you were here that night, stand up, please."
They did. All over the arena, they did.
And then "Hawaii Aloha." Then bagpipes. Riley Wallace with leis up to his nose, piled to the sky.
The people in the stands waved to him. They all stopped and waved before they turned to go.