Time for someone else to try to fix UH baseball


POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009

They're calling it a Nash Year around lower campus.

A one-year extension for Hawaii baseball coach Mike Trapasso may be in the works, comparable in some ways to the deal worked out for basketball coach Bob Nash. We'll know for sure in the coming days.

A couple of big differences should be considered here.

Nash is a UH icon as a player in his sport. Trapasso is a legend as a college athlete, too, but as a pitcher at Oklahoma State. Add in Nash's long term of service as an assistant with the Rainbows, and there is a sense from some corners, including this one, of an emotional connection translating into owing Nash another year.

UH does not owe Trapasso one as his second contract comes to an end next month, especially after yesterday's 10-3 loss to Fresno State in the WAC tournament. It owes him a thank you for nearly a decade of service, of some good work done to put a mostly competitive baseball team on the field. A 245-216 record, more wins than losses.

But just competitive in baseball at UH isn't enough.

Another huge contrast: Bob Nash has had just two years as head coach. Trapasso has had eight.

One regional appearance in eight seasons may be acceptable for a non-revenue sport at some places. But it simply does not meet the standard set for University of Hawaii baseball. And, for those of you who don't know, that standard isn't being set now by some punk newspaper columnist. It was established long ago by coaches, players, administrators and supporters—a state full of them—who built a program from the ground into one good enough to make it to within one win of a national championship.

Yes, ancient history—but enough continued success for several years after the 1980 College World Series for the fans to expect a return to Omaha at some point.

When Trapasso was hired, the Rainbows had been in steady decline. But his reputation as a recruiter and assistant at nationally prominent Georgia Tech brought renewed excitement and expectations.

Eight years later, the promise remains unfulfilled. This season was especially difficult to accept for fans because of how good things looked early on, up until a few weeks ago.

We've celebrated this team's resilience ... from the wrong end of a no-hitter, from catastrophes on the road and then at home against LaTech, from the gut-punch of a walk-off loss to those same Bulldogs to open the tourney Thursday.

But that's juxtaposed to problems, many traceable directly to coaching. They range from a botched rundown the other day that you learn how to execute in Little League to a maddening lack of hitting with runners on base.

Jared Alexander did his best pitching of the season yesterday, but was left in too long—a tendency of head coaches who were starting pitchers in their playing days.

None of these things by itself is a fireable offense, and athletic director Jim Donovan may not want to deal with a third major head coaching transaction within a few weeks.

But standards for on-field success—even nearly 30 years after that College World Series appearance—remain high for UH baseball.

They are higher than coach Mike Trapasso has reached in his eight years.