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Tip-Off event kicks off 100th season in grand style

If the 100th season of University of Hawai’i men’s basketball follows the lead of Thursday night’s classy and festive Tip-Off event, then the next five months promise to be quite grand.

The fourth annual banquet and auction (both silent plus live) at the Stan Sheriff Center was yet another sellout with around 500 people in attendance, and again reportedly raised well over $100,000 thanks in large part to major sponsors Hawaiian Airlines and Bank of Hawai’i and the hard work of a volunteer committee led by dedicated supporter Sydney Hamada.

“If we’re going to be a big-time program, we gotta act like a big-time program,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “We now have a big-time Tip-Off event which I will put up against any in the country.”

In celebration of the program’s centennial, special guests included former head coaches Riley Wallace and Bob Nash, both of whom helped build the foundation for UH’s “modern era” starting in the 1970s. They were welcomed to a standing ovation.

“I’ve been pretty spoiled to be around such great coaches,” said Ganot, who began his career as Director of Basketball Operations under Wallace and then later served three years as an assistant under Nash. “I know not many people have been as fortunate as I have been. Their impact goes way beyond basketball … We’ve always talked about the student-athlete experience as far as mentorship, about teaching, about leading, about educating … and those are two of the best, and that’s why their imprints are all over this program.”

Nash and Wallace also showed appreciation and pride for their former pupil.

“When I became head coach, the first assistant I hired was Eran Ganot, and it was because he was a good coach, a hard worker and had good values,” said Nash. “And he hasn’t disappointed me … The thing about Eran is, he’s always been a ‘do-er’, and his heart is always in the right place. He’s a driven person and he has a purpose, and when you have that, success is inevitable.”

Wallace said he feels good having Ganot in charge of the program he guided for 20 seasons.

“It’s good for me, and it’s good for all the fans here, too,” Wallace said. “He’s a good coach, and he likes it here. He’s a good guy.”

As with past Tip-Off events, the night included panel interviews with players and coaches, conducted by Spectrum broadcasters Kanoa Leahey and Kawika Hallums. But this time, one panel also included former UH players Nash, Kalia McGee, Nerijus Puida and Mike Thomas.

During the live auction, there were separate video messages from former Rainbow Warriors Phil Handy and Mark Campbell, who helped secure big-ticket items that eventually sold for thousands of dollars.

“Isn’t that awesome? The affinity people have, the connection is strong,” Ganot said. “When you play and work for Coach Wallace and Coach Nash … you hear from a lot of these alums, and we’ve tried to reach out to them. When we talk about team effort, I hope we talk about this, too.”

Proceeds from the Tip-Off event will help to benefit the program’s Coach’s Fund that provides for the players’ health and nutrition (i.e. training table), summer school tuition and recruitment and retention.

Ganot said the success of the Tip-Off event is just another example of how the program has made big strides in the past four-plus years, including the newly renovated “Gym II,” refurbished locker room and arena floor.

“We’re actually opening up the season with that new practice gym, from the start, and now the new locker room and the new floor,” Ganot said. “There’s a lot of things that we’ve tried to check off that are massive projects, that we’re starting to check off the list. I think things are coming together.”

While embracing the moment, Ganot said he will continue to honor the program’s rich history and has planned more ways to do that throughout this 100th season. Thursday’s event also featured colorful poster boards for each decade going back to the 1970s and earlier, as well as memorabilia such as vintage Rainbow Classic programs. They were put together helped by a panel of former players. 

“At one point, from that panel we had guys from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s and 2010s … from four of the five NCAA Tournament teams, and the NIT teams,” Ganot said. “Just having them around our guys was something special … Rest assured, you’ll see (more) former players, teams, coaches, moments again.”

2 Comments

  1. Some reason Ganot can drum up interest in the fundraising but it doesn’t translate to overall interest with butts in seats for games.

  2. It doesn’t help when there isn’t even a note in the Star Advertiser about the Chaminade game.

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