Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Wallace will have
to wait for greatness

ONCE upon a time, there was a basketball coach. He was a good coach. Not great, good. His teams played hard. Mostly, they won. Mostly. And so, he had some pretty good years. Not great, but good.

There were all kinds of reasons for this. Winning isn't easy. There was too much travel and not enough talent, and there were opportunities missed and opportunities that never came. And timing. Timing was everything. And he came to find out, location was everything, too. Like in real estate.

And perhaps one of the reasons boiled down to this: He was simply a good coach. Not great, good. That's just what he was. Nothing wrong with that.

And so the bell curve continued. He had good teams, when things were going good, and at other times things were tougher.

But, as they say, winning is better than losing. Good is not bad at all, the administration decided. And so they had him back, and every year he came back. Fifteen years in all, which is a very long time. Pretty much impossible to do these days without being a coaching legend.

And this guy was good, but he was certainly no coaching legend.

But like the cotton commercials say, he became part of the fabric. He was established. He was there. He was the basketball coach.

He did some smart things over the years, and some dumb ones, too. A couple of the dumb things looked smarter and smarter as time marched on, and some didn't. But he could get away with it, somehow, because everyone knew that this was HIM. He was genuine and brave and if he said something, he meant it. And people admired that, even if they thought he was being an idiot.

And meanwhile, most years, he was good. Almost great a few times. Almost. But not quite.

THEN SOMEWHERE, something changed. Maybe the coach was a new man after those health scares. Or perhaps the sports psychologists -- brought in to help the players -- had rubbed off on him. Or maybe it was his choice of players -- not the best ones, but the right ones. Whatever. The coach was so much better now. He knew it all now. He wasn't just good anymore.

And it worked, suddenly, finally, as his team made a miraculous run through its conference tournament and into the Big Dance. It was so wonderful, the coach wrote a book, which was silly when you think about it, but he just wanted to share this wonderful breakthrough with the world.

And all through the next year, wow. Everything worked. Everything. All of it was like that miracle run of the season before. They played better than anyone had imagined, they basked in the glow of a season of dreams.

The coach had done it. He had finally done it. He was a maestro, and this was his masterpiece. Not good, but great. At last.

But at the crowning moment, in the Big Dance -- when it would have been etched in stone and affirmed forever -- all of it imploded, melted away.

Now the greatness club is closed for another year. And Riley Wallace can only wait for another chance like this one.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin