Grier gets his chance when San Diego visits
A long-time assistant coach will finally get his chance to run the show tomorrow night when Hawaii and San Diego open the season at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Rainbow Warrior coach Bob Nash will make his debut as well.
The season tipoff between the Rainbows and Toreros will feature a matchup of coaches making their first regular-season appearances as college head coaches.
Nash worked his way up the chain at UH over 26 years, starting as a graduate assistant in 1981 and elevating to assistant and associate coach before being hired for the head coaching job to succeed Riley Wallace.
Bill Grier filled much the same role at Gonzaga, helping develop the Bulldogs into a national power over 16 years, the last eight as the top assistant to head coach Mark Few. He moved down the coast to San Diego in March to take command of the Toreros program.
"With how long (Nash) has been in the program, I'm guessing the transition is going to be fairly seamless," Grier said. "For me it's an entirely new system and a group of players I've never worked with before, so there's going to be some growing pains. ... But this is just a great opportunity, it's a great fit for me at this university and our staff is really excited."
With the new head coaches implementing their own visions, preparing a scouting report figures to be something of a guessing game for both staffs.
Tomorrow's game will be the Rainbows' first public appearance since opening practice at Twilight Ohana on Oct. 12. Rather than play exhibition games, the Rainbows conducted closed scrimmages with Brigham Young-Hawaii and UH-Hilo.
They've been led in practice by a senior core of perimeter scorers in Matt Gibson, Bobby Nash, Riley Luettgerodt and Jared Dillinger. Nash could also play in the post to give the 'Bows more speed and perimeter shooting as they look to push the tempo of the game.
"We're going to run every time we can find an opportunity to run," Nash said. "Rebounds, steals, made baskets, whatever the situation is we're looking at pushing the ball up the floor."
Grier found the cupboard pretty well stocked when he took command of a San Diego program that went 18-14 last season and placed third in the West Coast Conference preseason coaches poll.
The Toreros don't have a senior on the roster, but return forward Gyno Pomare, who averaged 14.9 points and a league-high 8.3 rebounds. Guard Brandon Johnson was an All-WCC honorable mention pick after averaging 12.8 points and 4.8 assists.
The duo paced the Toreros in exhibition wins over Point Loma Nazarene and Occidental, Pomare averaging 13 points and six rebounds and Johnson posting 15.5 points and six assists.
Grier has coached in Hawaii five times previously with Gonzaga, most recently two years ago when the Bulldogs finished second in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. He was also on the staff in 1998 when Gonzaga lost to UH in the second round of the NIT at the Sheriff Center.
"I know how tough that environment can be. It's really going to challenge our team," Grier said.
While the UH coaching staff is familiarizing themselves with the Toreros' personnel, they've also been studying footage of Gonzaga to get a feel for Grier's style.
"If they're like (Gonzaga) teams in the past ... their transition game will be full speed," Nash said. "They'll want to catch you back on your heels trying to get back on defense and try to beat you off the dribble and beat you off pick-and-rolls. We just have to get back and we always have to be in support.
"(The Rainbow players) don't wear, 'Play Hard, Play Smart, Play Together,' just to be wearing it," Nash said, referring to the slogan on the team's T-shirts. "They have to believe it."
Power of three
Nash announced yesterday that Gibson, Luettgerodt and Bobby Nash were voted team captains by their teammates.
"It's a great honor, especially with Bobby and Matt being here four or five years. It's a good honor that my teammates view me as a leader," Luettgerodt said. "You have to be there for your teammates and work hard. It's nice to know your teammates respect you like that."
Former UH coach Riley Wallace is scheduled to fly in from Las Vegas on Friday and will attend the game. ... UH students with a valid ID can receive a free ticket to the game. ID must be shown upon ticket pick up and entry to the arena.