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Wanted: Wins and Leaders

In the aftermath of the 79-55 loss to Boise State on Saturday night, the Hawaii basketball team spent more than 30 minutes in its locker room, discussing the future of this season.

In particular, the Warriors talked about raising expectations and establishing team leaders for the 13 regular-season games that remain on the schedule.

“There’s got to be a point where you expect to win, and that’s the toughest thing to teach,” head coach Gib Arnold said. “I don’t know if there’s a book for it, or a drill for it. It kind of just has to happen. And once it happens, it’s a pretty beautiful thing.”

Arnold cited examples of his previous coaching stints at USC and College of Southern Idaho. He said both of those teams had 0-3 conference records but went on to win conference titles.

“I’ve been in those meetings, in those locker rooms, when you’ve lost your first three games and you feel like the world is falling in on you,” Arnold said. “Then all of a sudden something happens good on the road … everything changes like that.

“I’m not counting that out with this team. But it’s got to happen, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Hawaii is 9-7 overall and 0-4 in the Western Athletic Conference.

During the second half of the loss to Boise State, Arnold called a timeout and said he knew immediately that the Warriors needed a mental makeover.

“I saw their faces and it was blank stares,” he said. “There was no fight … it’s hard to do with a lot of these guys who have never won in Division I. It’s easy to drop your head. It’s hard to keep fighting when the odds are against you.”

The only player on the Hawaii roster who has previous NCAA Tournament experience is junior Zane Johnson (who was on two NCAA Tournament teams at Arizona before transferring to Hawaii). He was visibly upset after Saturday’s loss and described it as “embarrassing.”

“It’s gotta come from within,” Johnson said. “It’s gotta come from the players. It can’t always come from the coaches. Somebody’s going to have to step up and want to be a leader out there. Bill (Amis) and Hiram (Thompson) have done a good job this year, I’m not trying to knock them in any way. But we have to figure it out and figure it out fast.”

In the extended post-game locker room session, Arnold said there was no yelling or finger-pointing.

“We just talked about leadership, talked about changing this program, from a losing program to a winning program,” he said. “I got too many guys that are used to losing and accept it, and that’s unacceptable.”

At the same time, the remainder of the WAC season will be an uphill climb. Arnold concedes that virtually every team in the conference is more athletic than the Warriors.

“It’s hard to get out there and trap, run and press when you’re a step slow,” Arnold said.

He said the Warriors will have to compensate by “playing hard, playing smart, playing together.”

Johnson added: “I think teams have us scouted out better. They’re rushing us on our shots. But that’s where being a basketball player comes in. You have to take one dribble and pull-up, or take one dribble and make the extra pass.”

If there is good news, it is that Hawaii is not alone in its WAC struggles. San Jose State is also 0-4 in conference play, and Louisiana Tech is 0-3.

The Warriors will get a chance to turn things around far away from home. They depart Honolulu on Tuesday night for WAC road games at New Mexico State on Thursday, then at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

“I think this team felt a little pressure coming back home, expected to win,” Arnold said. “And maybe the road will be good for us in that we can bond and just concentrate on the task at hand.”

Photo by Brandon Flores

5 Comments

  1. UH needs a point guard who can run the team and be a coach on the floor, we have had the same issues at point the last three seasons under Nash. We have talent on the team but too many of them are lacking in D1 experience and they have not stepped up to D1 level of play (speed).

    We are slow on offense and defense, but that is the experience factor, with time the players will gear up and learn to play faster for all 40 minutes. In the mean time, our point guard who is a senior has to step up and become a leader, Hiram hasn’t to date.

    I see a lot of players standing around while he dribbles, dribbles, and at times makes a drive to the hoop, unfortunately all to often he doesn’t pass it to the bigs or kick it out to Johnson or Barnes for an open 3. He needs to take control of the offense and get everyone on the same page, as I see it, the saying holds true, they thinking too much, just play and play faster.

  2. It seems all these problems started when Bill Amis (one of the team captains) wimped out for a 2nd time, not good. Some players probably looked at that and thought to themselves, if a team captain shows no guts then why should we. Bill should have showed more back bone, and played thru the little auwee.
    As for point guard, maybe it is time, Coach Gib takes a serious look at having Miah there permanently as the starting point guard. He is more athletic, faster, and stronger then the other 2 they have. Not to mention he is mentally tough, also.
    Here is my starting four, with the fifth spot open to who wants it. Guards, Miah, and Zane, one forward would be Thomas, center would go to Vander, and other forward may go to Bill, if he can prove that he can stay in the lineup and not have a little auwee take him out for extended periods of time. If he cannot then that spot would be open to whoever proves they want it.

  3. I agree, this team is in need of a win real soon before things start falling apart. Starting on the upcoming road trip would be great. Come on Warriors it’s time to step it up.

  4. If Miah were installed as the point or lead guard, Hawaii would not win another game this year. Here we go again. The fingers pointers pointing the finger at Hiram, when the finger should be pointed at the coach, just as they were last year. We do not have an effective half court offense, that fits our personnel and creates scoring opportunities with movement and screens. The “motion” offense UH is using now is very limited and very easy for opposing teams to diagram and figure out and defend. No amount of “leadership” on Hiram’s part can overcome that, unless he is magically transformed into a Steve Nash, or a Chris Paul, or a Rajon Rondo, which is not going to happen. Hiram doesn’t want to dribble around and go one on one, but too often he gets stuck with the ball with nowhere to go, so he has to make an aggressive move to the basket, even when it’s not within his ability to do so.

    I feel sorry for Hiram. He is not a great guard by any means, but had he been here under Riley Wallace on teams like the ones for which Mark Campbell played lead guard, people would understand and appreciate his leadership and “coach on the floor” much more than they do now. Arguably, those teams would have been better with Thompson than Campbell, because IMHO, Hiram has a better innate “feel for the game” and better outside shooting ability than Campbell, even though he is not as tough or as good a defender as Mark was.

    But that’s all in the past. If this year’s team is to improve and win some games, the coaches are going to have to install more half court offense that will involve more than just running screens for Zane Johnson, low post isolation plays for Vander Joaquim, or high low stuff. This is pro stuff predicated on having superior physical ability and talent than the other team. That’s not our situation now.

    It’s either do that, or keep trying to muddle through and wait until next year to see if a new group of recruits and hopefully an improved and more mature group of returnees can run and succeed with a simple, basic offense designed to take advantage of physical superiority.

    In the meantime, stop throwing stones at Hiram Thompson.

  5. Agree with RYee.. Gib’s got to start getting some of the blame.. Even Bob Nash’s teams didn’t get manhandled this badly in two consecutive home games over his entire regime against middle-of-the-pack WAC teams.. And with the possible exception of Fleming, Nash’s players were worse, much worse..

    A for Gib’s recruiting skills..

    As for his coaching skills, perhaps it’s time to face the fact that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree..

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