JOAN: 'HAVE TO HAVE FAITH'
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Joan Wallace, wife of Riley Wallace, said she's "ready to go where he wants, to do what he wants to do."
Wallace’s wife stood by her man down to the end
Joan Wallace was the ultimate 'coach's wife' for the Rainbows
There have been moves before, many moves, during their 43-plus years of marriage.
Shreveport, La., to Litchfield, Ill. Back to Shreveport, then to Honolulu.
Back to Shreveport, then to Seminole, Okla., And back to Honolulu.
Not for 20 years, but for 20 seasons, 598 games as of last night. And counting. Raising two children and dozens of players.
"I'm ready to go where he wants, to do what he wants to do," Joan Wallace said. "We've gone wherever, whenever. "
It again may be back to Shreveport and back to Centenary, where the couple first met as freshmen. Where Riley Wallace, a basketball player and member of Kappa Sigma, pinned Joan Williams, a Chi Omega, the couple marrying the August before his senior year. The Hawaii coach is expected to interview for the athletic director's job, become a Gent once more.
Joan Williams Wallace, raised just down the road a bit from Centenary, has always been a gracious southern lady. And epitomized what a coach's wife could be, not just a team supporter but a foster mother to a revolving door of players.
Before the Nagatani Academic Center was built, "Miss Joan" would tutor her husband's players who needed help at the couple's Hawaii Kai home, often feeding the athletes before sitting with them until their bus arrived. The Jarrett Middle School teacher cooked for the holiday team dinners, not just for the players but any family members who were in town. Last Christmas, it was an intimate gathering of more than 60.
"You know (Riley) would do anything for the kids," she said. "If they need help, all they have to do is ask.
"And he wanted so much for this to become a big-time place for basketball. I think that's what it has become."
She'll be making a rare trip for this week's Western Athletic Conference tournament in Las Cruces, N.M. It was written into the coach's last contract that Joan can make two trips. It wasn't always the case, especially after she went to the 1994 Great Alaska Shootout, where the Rainbows went 0-3, never scored more than 49 points and gave up more than 300. It was her last trip for a long, long time. Riley Wallace is a superstitious man.
But she has loved him, even before their Aug. 3, 1963, marriage, through sickness -- much-publicized sicknesses -- and health, through good times and bad.
This year has been tough, knowing it was his last, not knowing what would happen next. Knowing he wasn't leaving on his own terms.
"But as they say, when one door closes, another opens," she said. "You just have to have faith."
They've put the Hawaii Kai home on the market, hoping to be able to buy a condo so they can continue to come back a few times a year and see their many friends. They have a home in Las Vegas, where daughter Kim and her family live. They may end up taking care of Kolu, their son's Siberian husky, when Rob, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, does a three-year tour in Japan, taking his wife and two young sons.
"We are going to miss her, she's been such a part of this program," Domelynne Nash, wife of UH associate coach Bob Nash. "You can't find a finer person than her."
And, she admits, a bit of a manipulator as well. When her husband didn't want to stop and feed the team on a recent road trip, she mentioned she was a little hungry and McDonald's sounded good. When the coach wanted to practice Christmas Day, she talked him out of it.
"Of course, he always says he decides when to let me be the boss," Joan Wallace said.
Last night was very emotional for both of them, sitting on the court together, after a very impressive 92-75 victory over Boise State. A number of former players came to show their respect, some bringing their only children to present both Riley and Joan with leis.
"The boys have all been wonderful," she said. "They are all part of our family. We love them all."