Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

UH arena aptly
named for Sheriff

LIFE'S simple pleasures include paddling canoes off Lanikai, driving over the Pali with the full moon rising between the peaks of Olomana, and walking into an empty Stan Sheriff Center before a scheduled interview.

It may be a quirk of the job but being able to be alone in a quiet arena is a privilege. It's a chance to look around without the bright lights or the noise.

It's a chance to appreciate the arena. And, it's a chance to think about Stan Sheriff.

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the athletic director died on Jan. 16, 1993. The 61-year-old collapsed at Honolulu International Airport after returning home from the NCAA Convention in Dallas.

It's easy to remember when the news came. The Fabulous Five reunion celebration was going on at the Blaisdell Arena, commemorating that wonder team's success from the 1970s.

The celebrity/media basketball game had finished and we sat in the upper level, watching the Fab Five. It was easy to spot Rainbow coach Riley Wallace standing behind one basket. It was even easier to tell something was very wrong after he spoke with a reporter and quickly left the arena.

"I headed straight to the house," Wallace said. "I think about him quite often. Yes, we were good friends. He was a coach's coach, a coach's A.D.

"I knew what his vision was. He wanted to bring me back here, get the basketball program back to prominence. And get the boosters off his back."

One wonders how Sheriff would feel about the arena being named for him.

"I think he's would say, 'Don't do it,' '' said Wallace. "But he would appreciate it.

"Stan was very frank. You knew where you stood with him at all times. And some people didn't like that. I think he would never believe they'd name the (UH) arena after him because of that."

Through Sheriff's planning and fund-raising efforts, the 17,000-seat UNI-Dome was built for the Northern Iowa campus and community.

He wanted the same for Manoa, lobbying for most of his decade as UH's 21st athletic director.

Sheriff, a Little All-America football center at Cal Poly, stood his ground when others wanted 4,000 seats instead of 10,300. He dreamed big, as big as 20,000, believing long before the movie "A Field of Dreams" that if you build it, they will come to watch ... athletics, cultural events and concerts.

"IT'S AMAZING that it's been as long as it has been," said Sheriff's son Rich, the arena manager. "Working here, I think about him every day.

"I think he'd be proud of this facility and proud of the direction that UH athletics has taken. I don't know if I'll ever not miss him. I'd rather think about all the good times rather than him being gone."

Rich Sheriff often visits the bust of his father on the concourse inside of Gate A. It's very lifelike, sitting on a koa pedestal.

But there's no plaque to identify it as Sheriff nor commemorate his efforts. The phone book still calls it the Special Events Arena, its name until the fifth anniversary of Sheriff's death.

Perhaps it's time to do something about both.

And if you're in the arena tonight, stop by the bust and say hello. And thanks.

Cindy Luis' column appears periodically.
E-mail Cindy at

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