Hawaii’s 7 seniors leaving behind a gritty, no-quit legacy
Seven seniors. Who has seven seniors these days?
A few college basketball teams, but not the elite programs. Their old men are in the NBA.
And not the bad teams in transition. Those with new coaches generally lose at least a couple of veterans who don't fit into the new vision. Seven seniors on a team with a first-year head coach? And for them to survive the season? Unheard of.
So Bob Nash gets some credit for that. No one jumped ship on his maiden voyage and no one walked the plank. He kept it together.
As transition teams go, this one isn't too bad, at least in the wide view. Double-digit in victories is more than could have been expected from an injury-riddled team with no depth down low and a late start on recruiting.
No, this Rainbow Warriors team's problem, at least last night against Boise State, was the other kind of transition -- like getting back on defense after made baskets. That shouldn't be a problem for a team that starts four guards.
There are other fundamental weaknesses, like blocking out. Is there any way to get Tim Shepard out of the aloha shirt and into a jersey? Because that's exactly what this team needs -- a strong banger who can hold his own down low. While we're dreaming, might as well make it Bob Nash, circa 1971, he of 30 rebounds in one game.
But what you have is Bobby Nash, the son. A versatile player who tried to do everything that was asked of him over the course of five years, and it was a lot. Last night he did the best impersonation of his father that he could, leading UH with 10 rebounds and making his senior dunk while wearing Pop's old Rainbow jersey.
Riley Luettgerodt rallied the Rainbows last night with some nice shooting, and the Broncos nearly cracked against some late full-court pressure.
Matt Gibson is the beloved bad boy, one of the best players in the conference when he wasn't suspended.
There's contagious heart and hustle, like Jared Dillinger going into the third row for a loose ball. And Dillinger making a trey and steal with less than 2 minutes left to keep Hawaii in a game it was nearly blown out of three times.
They share the ball. And you're almost never out of it with this many shooters. But it still usually comes down to inside presence, and you need some muscle in the post.
They defied that hoops logic with wins over Utah State and New Mexico State. But other than agonizing the Aggies, the Rainbows are 0-6 since the start of February.
If the Rainbows find the Las Cruces, N.M., nets to their liking, who knows? Perhaps a barrage of treys steals them a game or two in the WAC tournament. After all, this is not exactly the ACC. Possible, but unlikely.
Those of you with long memories will recall that 20 years ago Riley Wallace's first team won four games. These Rainbows still have a chance to triple that number.
A transition season is rarely pretty. But it can be gritty. If Bob Nash can get the next wave of Rainbows to play as hard as this first edition, he might have something next year.
is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org