Sunday, March 07, 2010

Three and out for Bob Nash?

Three years ago, almost to the day, the Stan Sheriff Center broke out in a booming, Danny Kaleikini-led chorus of: "We Want Nash! ...We Want Nash! ..."

The occasion was the postgame tribute to then-University of Hawai'i men's basketball head coach Riley Wallace, who had coached his last game at the school. And Bob Nash, his long-time assistant, was a popular choice for successor.

But as Nash's third season ended yesterday at 10-20 with 11 losses in the final 12 games and a last-place (3-13) finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings, several signs point to the cash-strapped school attempting to buy out the final year of his extended contract and hiring a replacement.

Nash has not achieved a winning record in three seasons and has an overall record of 34-56 (15-33 WAC), the lowest point of which was not making the WAC Tournament this season.

Wallace said Nash "was put in a hole" from the start of his head coaching tenure in 2007.

Wallace announced his resignation as Hawai'i head coach on Dec. 29, 2006. Nash was named his successor on April 13, 2007.

At the time, then-athletic director Frazier said "a national search" made the process lengthy.

"I made it known to Herman Frazier from the start of that year that I was going to step down and so he should name Bob as the next coach right away," Wallace said. "If (Frazier) did that from the start, the transition would have been smooth and recruiting would have been in place."

Instead, Nash and his assistant coaches scrambled to sign six recruits before the start of the 2007-08 season. Several other higher-rated recruits signed with other programs while the Hawai'i coaching search endured.

A dark cloud has seemingly followed Nash and the 'Bows ever since.

During the 2007-08 season, starting center Stephen Verwers suffered a season-ending broken leg during a Christmas Day practice, and the 'Bows' defense struggled the rest of the way.

During the 2008-09 season, the team — which did not have any seniors on the roster — made significant strides on defense, but struggled offensively. Four players from that team left the program after the season.

This season, the team has been riddled with injuries and suspensions. The 'Bows started the season with 11 scholarship players available.

Amazingly, all 11 missed either practice or game time due to injury or suspension. Most significant, forward Bill Amis — the leading rebounder in 2008-09 — did not play a single game due to a foot injury.

Guards Dwain Williams (indefinite suspension) and Jeremy Lay (hernia surgery) — the key recruits prior to the season — missed the entire stretch run of this season. That left Nash with only one scholarship guard (Hiram Thompson) available for the final seven games.

"You have to make your luck sometimes, because every team goes through that," Wallace said. "But I've never seen a team that had so many injuries and problems develop in one year."

Utah State head coach Stew Morrill has followed the debate about whether Nash should be retained and said three years isn't long enough to evaluate the tenure.

"Three years, are you kidding me?" Morrill said. "It just amazes me in college basketball how impatient anybody is any more. Bob is a good coach and, hopefully, the powers to be know that."

Last month Donovan commended Nash, saying, "Bob Nash is an outstanding man; you can't find someone out there that has better character than he does ... a lot of things outside of win/loss Bob has done a very good job on. But win/loss is also a very important component of the success of a coach."

As a player, assistant coach and, most recently, head coach, Nash, with time out for a pro career, has had a 31-year stay at UH, the longest, hands-on association with the basketball program in school history.

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