Former 'Bows get back into the game
POSTED: Friday, November 14, 2008
They're not Division I coaches yet.
Someday, however, Tim Shepherd, Tes Whitlock and Johnny White hope to be.
The three former Hawaii basketball players have etched their names among the Rainbow Warriors career leaders in such categories as field goal percentage, 3-pointers and assists.
But they don't yet have the resumes or experience required to be officially called coaches at the college level. So in the meantime, they notch hours of film editing, receive coaching pointers and assist the next generation of Rainbows in a variety of behind-the-scenes ways.
When Bob Nash took over as head coach for Riley Wallace last season, he opened the door for players he formerly coached as an assistant.
"I'm all about guys trying to get an opportunity in life," Nash said. "Somebody gave me an opportunity, and I made the most of it. Trying to do the same thing for the next guy."
Shepherd, Whitlock and White all tried playing professionally after their careers at UH—varying from a couple of weeks (Shepherd) to seven years (Whitlock)—but all decided wrapping up their degrees was a must to stay around the game they loved.
In addition, swingman Riley Luettgerodt finished up his eligibility with the team last year and has remained aboard as a student assistant while he works on his degree.
The stout Shepherd, 38, was known as a rock in the paint between 1989 and 1993 despite giving up height (he is 6-foot-5) just about every night to opposing centers.
Since last season, he has been the Rainbows' director of operations. Nash relies on him heavily for the day-to-day inner workings of the team.
Shepherd, who is third in UH career field-goal percentage (53.8) and eighth in total rebounds (577), has a counseling masters degree from Chaminade and coached at La Pietra for a time.
He noted that having middle-aged former players around helps bridge the gap between the current players and the older coaches.
"I think every program should have this type of blend to it if they can," Shepherd said. "It's been a lot of years that former players haven't been in this system (besides Nash). It's just good to see players coming back, calling back. Stopping in on their vacations and trips and things like that. I think Coach Nash is starting to breed that family atmosphere, bringing people in and helping people, and that's what any athletic program should be about."
Whitlock, 36, has been team video coordinator since last year. The former guard was admittedly brash in his UH playing days from 1994 to '96, but he thanks Nash, White and particularly Shepherd for helping him come about. He's currently going for his bachelor's degree in social sciences at UH, and runs his own company, Off the Bench, which does fitness camps for kids.
"He realized people want character guys," Nash said. "He realized that, and he started to make changes. He's done an unbelievable job. He's been nothing but great for our program. The biggest thing he brings is he's a guy who knows how to motivate young people."
Whitlock, whose 72 3-pointers made in 1994-95 is fifth-best in a single season, nodded at Nash's sentiments.
"He's probably right. I did have to mature a lot after my playing days," he said. "I had to develop myself just like I used to try to develop myself as a basketball player. I had to develop myself as a person. I started living for life after basketball, and that's maturing into a young adult, a father. I'm a big brother, I'm an uncle. I have all these other leadership roles in my life, and I did change for those roles. It's made me better in all aspects of my life."
White, 30, called up Nash just before school started in the fall to see if any positions were available. He joined up as a volunteer manager after wrapping up his degree at Central Florida and some dabbling in the business world.
He couldn't resist coming back.
"Basically the one thing I remember is how the fans are here," said White, who played from 1998 to 2000 and is seventh in career assist average at UH with 4.3. "They really take you in, and if you play for the university, they will always remember you. Just a real good atmosphere out here."
He shadows Shepherd as he learns the duties of director of operations. White's known for a while that he wants to coach, and he plans to turn the experience he gathers into a full-time position somewhere closer to his native Florida.
"I told (Nash) what I was interested in and what I wanted to do," said White. "I wish I would have did it earlier, but when you're young you're blind to the fact that you can't play your whole life."