Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Highlights from latest “Call the Coach” radio show

Here are some excerpts from ESPN 1420 radio’s “Call the Coach” show with Eran Ganot on Tuesday night (note that these are just highlights, and not the entire transcript) …

On the loss at UC Santa Barbara:

I just didn’t think we looked right, I think you saw that during the day. And I’ve said this a long time, I said it last year, “Welcome to February in college basketball Division I — where everybody has ailments here and there.” We’ve been fighting through some things, where we lost one guy, he comes back and then we lose another guy. Against Santa Barbara, this game it was Jack (Purchase), and you could see the difference in him, and how he felt the next game. We’re also working Leland Green back in there. But the reality is, you have to fight through those things, and when Leland went out, we fought through it and we won three in a row. And you gotta keep doing that, because what we’re going through, everybody’s going through at this time of the year, it’s the grind of the season. We got exposed, but it was a great opportunity. This year presents a lot of opportunities where you can either lie down, or stick together. I was really pleased with the way we handled the post-game the next day and prepped for Cal Poly.

On a bad shooting night overall:

Sometimes you gotta find other ways, there’s so many other ways to win a game individually (and) collectively. You gotta dig down deep. I was pleased with the fact that we fought back and gave ourselves a chance at the end of the game. We were down three and hit a big three, and then there were a couple plays at the rim both ways, and we didn’t get it done, and it’s unfortunate. We learned the hard way. Sometimes the hard way is getting yelled at and running up and down, but the (real) hard way is living in regret. We let one get away, but I thought the guys did give a good effort.

There’s an opportunity for us to learn from that. Our execution against the zone has improved. I think when a Jack Purchase is limited (it hurts) … he’s a bit of a zone killer. But give them credit, he learned the hard way. But the reality is, this process is you’re presented with opportunities all the time and you can move forward. The next day, on Saturday, you’re going against a Cal Poly team — following a tough loss for us — that was coming off their best game, they were up 20-plus at the half at Northridge.
Just again, really pleased with the way our guys handled it. Hopefully we’ll be better going into those kind of games (like USCB).

On the victory at Cal Poly:

We set the tone and imposed our will, there was a physicality there, we won the boards. We were passing up good shots for great shots, we got ball movement and that’s where we can break teams and wear them down, the attrition works in your favor. The whole game, we were executing on a high level offensively. The disappointment in the first half was our lack of defensive consistency, but it came to fruition in the second half. Cal Poly is a tough place. At halftime I believe we were up seven, but we imposed our will on both ends in the second half.

It’s about playing right, it’s about living right, doing the right things. Sometimes you get a great shot, (but) you miss it — well, that’s good, keep playing that way and it’ll work in our favor. Sometimes you play poor defense, and they miss it. But when you have lapses, eventually you’ll get exposed, and we did in the first half, and that’s why we didn’t have more separation. But in the second half, we held them to 30 percent from the field on the road and continued to have offensive execution.

It’s always an approach, you talk about “the look.” Certainly some guys felt better — Noah’s ankle was better, Jack looked better. But it’s not always gonna be like that moving forward, we might have some other guys come down with injuries, and we gotta stick to figuring out there’s a way (to deal with it) instead of laying down. I think we had ups and downs with that this year.

On assistants staying on the Mainland to recruit last weekend:

We’re maximizing our time when we can, this was a rare week (with no midweek game). Our staff works their tail off, because there’s a lot of places where guys are out (recruiting) all the time, but we don’t do that, we try to make it so we’re at all practices so they know how special this group is — there’s no one more important than your current guys. (But) we get out on the road as well, and with the week we had, the bye on Thursday, it was an opportunity for two guys to stay out on the road and get work done. And then get back into the flow back here.

Recruiting is always a science, it’s something we’re passionate about. Our third recruiting class has been somewhat compromised, but it’s just like the ailments here and there, you’ve gotta put in all your time into figuring out a way. Preparation.

We’re playing this year like we’re gonna be in the postseason. We haven’t heard anything yet, but I don’t know why you would have any other approach. We’re playing and we’re recruiting like we’re gonna have the scholarships — what’s gonna happen if they start popping up? You gotta go to Plan B, Plan C. I like the guy we have on our list — some guys have gone away because we can’t offer a scholarship we don’t have yet.

But there’s a lot of guys that are still left for the spring (signing) period, and we’re hoping, we continue to have faith that we’re gonna hear (an answer) soon.

I appreciate our guys and our program. Recruiting is lifeblood of any program, and it’s all about people — from your staff, to your players, your recruits, your alums. No. 1 we gotta have great people, No. 2 great talent, and people who understand what a great place Hawai’i is. Relationships are critical. I tell people that I was Recruiting Coordinator at Saint Mary’s, and they ask, “What is the formula?” I said, well, we keep it pretty simple. No. 1 we don’t recruit that many guys — “What? How does that make any sense?” Well, if you recruit everybody, you’re not going to get to know them very well. And if you run around recruiting everybody, who’s spending time with your current guys? So I think there’s a reason. You want good guys who want to be around your program and want to be around good people. I just think there’s a fit there.

We’re gonna bring in great guys, great talents, guys who appreciate what this means to Hawai’i, who will develop and get better. And we’re not gonna have the nonsense off the court, any of that stuff. We’re gonna spend all of our time in trying to get better, there ain’t no babysitting. You can’t have that, or you’re not going to be any good. And that’s the way we’re gonna run our program.

I feel good every day, because of the staff we have, and the guys we have in our program. Look — we’re working with unbelievably unique recruiting circumstances, but it’s a great challenge — those are going to go away one day. And in the meantime, our whole deal was to stabilize. When you get hired, you gotta build, build, build. But when you get to this situation and the dynamics of what’s going on, we had to have foundation, a stable foundation. I’m very proud of what our guys have done, and before you know it, we’ll be back to 13 scholarships, and (recruits) will be coming into a program that has no NCAA issues, no off-court issues, academics is smooth, and great guys running around, guys willing to work, and I want us to be a bit of a player development factory.

I’m pleased with the way guys in our program have handled it thus far.

On dealing with tough losses:

You continue to educate, there’s great teaching moments for a young group, and it’s great to see them evolve. And there’s such a balance there. There’s so many guys, myself included when I was younger, and you gotta continue to fight it because it’s human nature after a loss, to lower your head and feel like feel like you’re in the tank. Obviously it’s gotta hurt, but also you gotta move on, because it’s not going to help you to sit in your own dark world.

It’s hard, but I tell this to our guys, especially our upperclassmen: “What’s your most important job?” It’s leadership. We’re leaders of men, and we gotta continue to perform in the right and professional manner. And sometimes, when they get frustrated after a missed shot, so many people want to show you how much they care. But if you care so much, you can let it go. But they’re so into (the miss). I was like that, we’re all like that. But now I’m at the point where, well, just do something (instead of pouting).

On the Circle of Honor Induction ceremony and Saturday’s Senior Night:

Tony Davis has the single-game scoring record, 45 (points), it’s gonna be awesome for our guys to meet him. You hear a lot about Tony Davis, but to have an opportunity to meet him … I remember when I asked Coach (Riley) Wallace, he hadn’t met him before.

There’s a lot of alums that we’ve invited to the game, because Jim Leahey’s called a lot of their games. When I started as an assistant here, Jim Leahey was doing a lot of our games.

Coach Wallace is a mentor of mine, obviously.

Noah Allen has had a tremendous senior year, I hope he has a lot of support.

And also, it’s your last opportunity to watch this special group. I couldn’t be more proud of a group that has given more in some tough circumstances.

It’s also a “White-Out,” we’re gonna give out white T-shirts to the first thousand in attendance. I don’t know how often we’ve done that, but it’s something we want to continue to build off of, and see if we can pack the arena. We’ve had three sellouts in the last two years, and it hadn’t happened since (2004), and it’s OK to have another one.

You can see the potential of this program, and we’re playing against a Cal State Fullerton team that’s won three in a row, that beat us earlier in the year. They’re 7-5, we’re 7-6. It’s gonna be a great challenge, and let’s keep pushing it out there.

They do the Circle of Honor at halftime, so unfortunately we can’t be out there. But we’re also gonna try to find out if we can bring (the honorees) back out after the game, because we want to give them a hand and present them with something from our team.

And then we’ll honor Noah Allen right after that. (Allen) has been such an impressive senior for us and I know a lot of people really appreciate what he’s done for us.

He’s an intelligent young man, he comes from great family, he’s a guy I got to know first when I was a Saint Mary’s assistant when he was a (high school) sophomore or junior. You could see the potential there, it’s been great to see that potential grow, and he’s such a good young man. He has a chance to do some special things in life in whatever he chooses. He’s a pillar of the community, he’s a star in the classroom, and people really like him. Our guys, as you know, really care for him. And it’s just unique to see him go through some of the challenges he went through at such a late age. But he’s done a great job.

On recruiting junior college players or Division I transfers:

Once we get back to normal, we try to balance our classes. You have to look at what niches have worked here and junior colleges worked really well. Obviously we brought in Gibson Johnson last year and he’s done a great job for us. There’s been a lot of great junior college players come through our program. You just don’t want to live off it.

You want to bring in more freshmen and maybe a transfer. Either a graduate transfer you talked about or a four-year transfer who sits out a year, maybe an international player. I think you just want to balance your classes … look, we’re two for two in our last two years. Sai Tummala was a heck of a player on a 28 win team and Noah Allen is obviously one of the better players in our conference. Both guys are tremendous young men. That’s worked for us and we’re going to continue to find that.

On the final road trip of the season next week:

Awesome. What’s unique is we actually had that same road trip last year. You rarely see that in conference play where the same finish to your season happens the next year. We played at Davis last year to clinch the league title and that was not an easy place to play. They’re a very well coached team this year and obviously near the top of the league. Then you go against a Long Beach team that’s really playing well right now. Finding a rhythm with their personnel, one of the hardest places to play as well.

On the ongoing wait to hear from the NCAA:

I will say this, the experience is great. Unfortunately we have too much experience at this moment. We’ve had about as many reps as you can possibly have in dealing with this situation. We’re talking two years of those questions and the uncertainty. Human nature, it’s always in the back of your minds. But you get back to your routine as quickly as you can.

It’s unique to think we’d still be answering that question here in late-February. I know a lot of teams have gone through some of this and it could take them out. We haven’t done that. Let’s keep going with the way we’ve been rolling and keep playing with what we can control and get better. That’s what we should put our time in with the faith and anticipation that we’ll be in there. Shoot, we might even go up there until they tell us we can’t. I might get police-escorted out of the building.

It’s such a realm that not many people have dealt with. We had an appeal, we won the appeal. We’re waiting to hear something official in terms of it, and that was in October. I can’t wait for practice tomorrow. That’s about it.

On the scholarship situation:

We’re down to 11 scholarships. Michael Thomas and Drew Buggs are out (injured). We have nine. We had eight for some of the last couple weeks. Mike and Drew will be back (next season) and some of our younger guys got great reps. At some point, we’re going to be back to 13 (scholarships). We’re recruiting some good frontcourt guys that we’re looking at to continue to get bigger. I think Ido (Flaisher) will get better. Gibson will be back, he’ll be better. Jack will be better. Michael Thomas will be better. We’re targeting more depth in the backcourt in terms of the point guard position. We obviously have to replace Noah Allen and bring in some size. Iron sharpens iron. Fifteen to 16 guys battling in practice every day. Even our practices have been tough when guys have had ailments because of the lack of depth. It feels like you’ve been managing for the last couple years… in the meantime I’m proud of the way guys have developed.

On future recruiting classes:

We’re very organized, we’re very thorough. We’ve identified guys. We’re waiting to hear back on scholarships, but we’ll be back in (2018). We’ll have 13.

You want to have guys commit early in the fall, some guys commit as juniors, so you’re not spending so much time and there’s continuity. Continuity is a big deal. One of the reasons you want to recruit so far out, is you have to develop relationships. There’s a lot of good players out there, but do they fit, do they care about academics, do they care about Hawai’i, do they work, do they want to be good, do they fit with the rest of the team?

On playing in summer leagues:

There’s situations that are good for guys. Everybody’s from different areas and some guys are from out of the country. I know over the last couple years since we got here that we have a pretty strict program for guys who are here with us. … but then there’s a program we want them to be on when they’re away from us. You have to recharge and get back to work. You need a combination of the weight room, the track, the skill sessions, the one-on-one workouts, and then you have to play.

Over the last 10 years or so, it’s been some guys have preferred to play in certain summer leagues and some guys prefer to play in open gyms and runs that they have at certain schools.

On Riley Wallace:

I’ve been very blessed to work with great people and for great people and coach great kids. Its how you get better. Randy Bennett and Riley Wallace pushed and encouraged and throw you in positions to get better … I always say how lucky am I that Riley Wallace could coach one final year and I if I could have an opportunity to learn from him it was in that one final year.

When he comes in my office, I always say I don’t feel comfortable sitting in your chair we should probably switch. He’s a legend for what he’s done for the program. Not counting last year, we had been to eight NITs and four NCAAs and Coach Wallace had coached nine of those 12 postseason teams.

People ask me all the time why I go to other sporting events and every other fundraiser for other teams to support each other … I learned that from Coach Wallace. There’s no greater representative or a guy who fights more for the University of Hawai’i than Riley Wallace. He’ll do everything he can and he bleeds Hawaii green.


  1. Mahalo for the write up.

  2. i think Eran said something like the Hawaii Summer League’s people like Pat Tanibe put in a lot of hard work and it is an option for his players.
    To be honored Saturday, along with Riley and Jim Leahey ,
    ” Nicknamed “Bones,” Anthony “Tony” Davis set the program’s single-game scoring record with 45 point against Los Angeles State College on Feb. 6, 1959 in the Rainbows’ first 100-point game, a 116-107 victory. As (coach) Dr. Al Saake’s first African-American scholarship player, he led the Rainbows in scoring in his first season (540 points) … At 6-foot, 10 inches, he played key roles in wins over USC, UC Santa Barbara, Oregon State and Santa Clara as the program moved towards an all-intercollegiate schedule. He was the program’s first NBA draftee, selected by the New York Knicks in the ninth round of the 1960 draft.
    A native of Illinois, Davis was a high school All-American before finding his way to Manoa. ” (hawaiialthletics.com)

  3. So the dude is about 80 years old. It would be very cool if he could still dunk, and if so it would definitely make it to the ESPN highlights. But in any case, we don’t want any broken bones, on ESPN, so better safe than sorry. But I don’t mind talking about it, and who knows. Congrats to Bones. Always a Bow ! Go Bows !

  4. Good one, akuhead2, about Bones.
    Hoopstalk said Fullerton beat Irvine today, 56-54, even though Nelson had 20 pts.
    They have won 6 of 7 and their last 4 games and are tied for 3rd place. Had more rebounds, 47 to 39 and points in the paint, 26 to 16.

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