Bolla booted, will battle for bucks


POSTED: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Not too long ago, brash coaches (if they won) were described as fiery, not fired.

Now, in today's college athletics environment, if you're going to be a tough guy you'd better produce All-Americans and championships. Even then your job might not be safe if the players call Child Protective Services.

So, as the Star-Bulletin's Brian McInnis reports today, Jim Bolla is out as the University of Hawaii women's basketball coach.

No surprise. Even if Bolla is innocent of the allegations of being mean to his players, how could he be expected to effectively coach even one more game on the UH sideline after all the negative publicity of the past several months?

How could he tell the parents of a young lady that she'd be safe under his guidance after he's been accused of verbally abusing his charges and even kicking one?

Maybe you think Generation Y is also Generation Whine, but that's beside the point. Even if just a fraction of the allegations are true, it's clear he shouldn't be coaching young women.

Whether it's right or wrong, gender equity does not exist when it comes to coach-player relations. If a men's team went en masse to an athletic director's office with similar complaints, they'd likely be asked if they enjoy their scholarships and be laughed out the door.

So the remaining question is, how much of this is actually true? Can Bolla disprove enough to escape with some or all of the dollars UH is contracted to pay him for the next two years?

Bolla falls into a category of basketball coaches I call “;Bobby Light.”;

He's a late-middle-aged, old-school tough guy. He was a formidable big man as a player at Pitt.

When he's the boss, he's The Boss. What they used to call a no-nonsense coach; now, a dinosaur.

But unlike Bobby Knight, a fairly easy person to deal with if you're a reporter—hence Bobby Light.

When Bolla was rising through the ranks as an assistant at his alma mater, Knight was already a pillar of the college coaching fraternity. Yes, controversial with his temper and motivational techniques, but considered a role model when it came to Xs and Os and graduation rates—and national championships.

Anyone who got started in the business in the 1970s and '80s couldn't help but be influenced by Knight; hopefully only by the positive stuff.

Well, the Bobby Knight, or Bobby Light, style worked for some coaches in earlier decades.

Players, however, were different then. They were more likely to accept being yelled at or punished.

Now the players want input, they want reasons. They demand to know why.

Today's older coaches who are successful adapted. Bolla had a great run at UNLV starting in 1982 with 11 seasons of more than 20 wins, before a 4-21 ledger marked the end of his Rebels stint, in 1996.

While his peers rolled with the changes, Bolla was out of the game until Herman Frazier hired him in 2004.

I've never seen Bolla throw a chair, never seen him insult—nor kick a player or kick “;at”; a player. (And I really want that distinction to be cleared up).

But I have watched the team stagnate and decay, with the only real sign of life (after one decent season) when he took sick leave and assistant Pat Charity rallied the team in 2007.

I have listened as Bolla complained about fans complaining, and listened as he said he hadn't had enough time to recruit ... in his fifth year!

Putting your foot in your mouth is one thing. Allegedly putting it on a player is much worse.

These days it's a firing offense—especially when you're not winning.