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Nash will be fine as long as he plays by the book


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POSTED: Saturday, October 17, 2009

If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.

—Sun Tzu

Bob Nash doesn't need a hundred wins, but he does need at least 18.

Can the crew the third-year Hawaii basketball head coach has assembled save his job?

Apparently a few prognosticators think not, as the preseason mags pick them to flounder at or near the bottom of a resurgent Western Athletic Conference.

After taking in yesterday's first practice—and, more importantly, reviewing UH's schedule—the only way the Rainbows don't reach the magic number is if something happens to Roderick Flemings.

The All-WAC forward comes into camp healthy this year, unlike last season. And with a serious upgrade at the guard positions, Flemings won't have three opponents climbing his back every time he puts up a shot.

NEWCOMERS DWAIN Williams and Jeremy Lay can fill it up. I'm glad Nash rejected my proposal for a game of H-O-R-S-E with them. I'd be in trouble even if they spotted me four letters. My strategy also included teaming up with a ringer; my guess is Nash smelled that one out like three-day-old garbage.

Which brings us to Nash's latest reading material, “;The Art of War”;—a large chunk of which is devoted to deception and its proper use. Long-required reading for future military officers and corporate commandos, its ancient Chinese secrets helped Napoleon to the elite eight before he got blown out at the final of the Belgium Regional. Another Sun Tzu disciple, Douglas MacArthur, fashioned perhaps the greatest comeback ever.

“;It has a lot of good values and it's not just about war,”; Nash says. “;There's a lot about life skills. It's interesting reading.”;

Nash likes the part about the element of surprise. So he doesn't care who picks his team to finish last in the WAC. He knows he has 10 returnees, including one of the WAC's best players. He believes he has a center in Douglas Kurtz who can defend the middle and take more pressure off Flemings. He believes Williams and Lay will be quick enough to make up for their lack of size in defending the perimeter.

 

I LIKE Sun Tzu's take on adaptability, and it really fits for sports: Success is not about checking off items on a list, but rather about reacting effectively to changing conditions.

Sometimes you have to color outside the lines to create a masterpiece. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as being too coachable. Especially in basketball, the Oscar-winning lines are often the ad libs.

Even Riley Wallace—considered an old-school stickler by many—knew players have to have freedom to play.

“;The offense is just a framework,”; he told me once. “;Some of these guys take it too literally. They have to be able to make their own moves at times.”;

As he heads into his no-excuses year, Bob Nash says he has the kind of team that can and will run. A team that won't always be held back by the staid flex motion. A team that will adapt on the fly and hit the open shots.

And, most importantly, a team that will win at least 18 games.