HAWAII PRO BASKETBALL
Smith tackles building ABA’s Hurricanes
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He's been working more on his backswing than his jump shot lately. But that will soon change for Alika Smith, named head coach of the Hawaii Hurricanes pro basketball team.
"I may just have to come off the bench and be a player-coach," Smith said. "You never know."
The former Hawaii guard said the serious work of building the American Basketball Association franchise has already begun. Smith has started compiling names of potential players and assistant coaches for his team and "I've been getting phone calls from people I don't even know, and don't know how they got my number," he said. "I'm really excited to start.
"I want to make this work. I wouldn't jump into something if I didn't think it would be successful. Even if it means I've got to play."
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Blaisdell Arena has a special place in Alika Smith's heart.
He was a 5-year-old on the end of the Chaminade bench the night the Silverswords -- with his late father Pete as an assistant -- upset then-No. 1 Virginia in 1982 in Blaisdell.
Former UH guard was picked from a field of nearly 20 candidates.
In a few months, Smith will return to Blaisdell as coach of Hawaii's newest pro franchise. The 31-year-old former University of Hawaii guard has been named head coach of the Hawaii Hurricanes of the American Basketball Association.
The Hurricanes will have 18 home games, beginning with the Nov. 11 opener. Smith has until then to build his team, from players to assistants, as well as community support.
"There's guys on my list who don't even know they're on the list yet," said Smith, who signed a one-year contract Sunday. "I'm still soaking it all in, seeing who might be available.
"I'll go the college route first (for assistants), looking at guys with local ties. It always bothered me that we didn't keep the best local players home, a Derrick Low (Iolani graduate playing for Washington State). I want to showcase what we have here first."
Smith, an all-state player at Kalaheo, showcased his talent in a Rainbows uniform from 1995 to 1998, earning All-Western Athletic Conference honors. After a short pro playing career, he turned to coaching, first as an assistant at Hawaii-Hilo (2001-03) and then at UH the past two seasons.
When his UH contract was not renewed in April, Smith began applying for jobs on the mainland. He was one of nearly 20 candidates interviewed for the Hurricanes' top spot.
"We're excited to have Alika," Hurricanes president Andrew Moss said. "We did a nationwide search and, overall, he had everything we were looking for. That he is a very marketable person figured into our decision.
"We wanted a coach that people were comfortable with and we believe in his coaching style. He was the most qualified candidate."
Open tryouts will take place in Hawaii in early August with additional tryouts scheduled for late October in Las Vegas. Smith said he already has been in contact with several former UH players, including Deonte Tatum -- a Rainbow student assistant this past season -- and Jason Carter.
Moss said he expects to have ticket packages together next week, with sales starting around July 9.
Moss said he is also finalizing television and radio deals as well as hiring in-house broadcast teams that will travel for road games. He said a big push will also be in community events to help develop a fan base.
"Our goal is to provide low-cost entertainment and create it as the community's team," said Moss, a Radford graduate who ran cross country for Hawaii Pacific. "We're not trying to compete with UH and the other basketball programs. We're working our schedule around when they're not in town."
As always, the biggest obstacle to having a team in Hawaii is operating costs. Moss said he is in negotiations with airlines and hotels to make it more affordable. And, just like the NFL's Pro Bowl, the ABA has expressed an interest in having Hawaii host its all-star game.
Blaisdell is currently undergoing renovations that include new stands, playing court and scoreboard. Most of the work is scheduled to be done before the home opener.
"I'm really excited about this chance," Smith said. "It came out of nowhere. It's amazing how things work out."