Wallace closes the door for last time
RILEY Wallace had the check-out checklist in his hand.
"Turn in keys," he said. "See, I just did that."
Yes, yesterday was April 30. His last day. Turn in his keys. Turn in the car.
"You have to do all this or you don't get your vacation time," he said.
He was headed to the business office for more check marks. State paperwork.
Of course, it never goes as smoothly as you think it should. Of course there is one more step you didn't see. Of course he had to go down the hall to one more office to get that check checked.
"The newspaper's here taking all this down," Wallace said.
"See?" he said over his shoulder. "They don't want me to leave."
EVEN ON HIS last day, Wallace is still making trouble.
"No change," basketball office manager Bobbie Omoto said.
But in each office, along with the grumbling, was teasing, and smiles, and old pictures traded, and hugs.
"Why are you still coughing?" UH athletics human resources specialist Paula Nishimoto said.
"Someone just asked me about basketball," Wallace said.
Star-Bulletin photographer Richard Walker showed up. Whew! He'd made it while Wallace was still here. He'd been called in, last-minute, special assignment. It was an emergency, both phones. It was urgent.
He'd even been called away from another shoot.
"I'm supposed to be taking a picture of a lady who makes her own dog food," Rich said.
"That's a good story," Wallace said.
OF COURSE it is. But after 20 years, this is how big an occasion Wallace's last day in the office was.
You could have called this part. It turned out he couldn't check out without his checkbook, and that was sitting at home.
Big laugh. No, no, just some leftover from the WAC tournament. He would have to go home and come back.
Why didn't he have his checkbook? Wallace wondered.
Because he'd always had it in his desk drawer, Omoto decided.
Ah, yes. And his office was empty now. All cleaned out.
He went up one last time, to see it, grab the last stack of stuff, under his arm. His nameplate, Riley Wallace, Head Coach. Wallace shut the light, then gestured dramatically, so we wouldn't miss it, as he closed the door.
"That's it," he said.
Then Wallace shook hands with Bob Nash, the new coach. He gave Omoto a hug. Julian Sensley was there. Matt Gibson -- huge grin -- was walking in the door.
"Just in time," Wallace said.
And then he was out the door. Down the elevator, waiting for it to open. Then out, into the air. Into the sun.
It was like Sam Malone turning off the lights.