Sunday, May 17, 2015

Matlin chooses Ganot over Benjy

[5/17/15] Norm Parrish named as second full assistant

[5/16/15] The University of Hawaii said it will vacate 36 victories; reduce scholarships, practice time and tryouts; cut back the role of its operations director; pay a $10,000 fine; and place itself on one-year probation for violations of NCAA rules by its men's basketball program.

The self-imposed sanctions, contained in a 64-page reply to the NCAA on Friday, were immediately blasted by fired coach Gib Arnold's attorney, James Bickerton, who categorized them as "a typically shortsighted action, throwing students and their achievements under the bus to save their own okoles."

[5/12/15] Bryce Canda Q&A
[5/11/15] Ganot's first recruit is Bryce Canda

[5/1/15] Awards banquet and sendoff for Benjy
[4/29/15] Ganot yet to sign contract
[4/24/15] Ganot's first hire is Adam Jacobsen
[4/14/15] Isaac Fleming will stick it out

[4/10/15] Ganot sees it as a calling
[4/10/15] Ganot is out to build a culture
[4/9/15] Eran Ganot introduced as the 21st coach for Hawaii basketball


When Eran Ganot left the University of Hawaii five years ago, his avowed goal was to someday work his way back as the Rainbow Warriors' head basketball coach.

"Someday" arrived Wednesday when the 33-year-old Saint Mary's associate head coach signed to become the 'Bows' newest and youngest full-time head basketball coach of the conference era (1979-2015).

"Eran loved Saint Mary's but the No. 1 place he's always wanted to be — and be a head coach — was Hawaii," said Randy Bennett, the Gaels' head coach. "He's always talked about it, always been improving his craft working toward getting back to Hawaii. He even gave up a chance at the Chaminade job to wait (for UH)."

UH has scheduled a 9 a.m. campus news conference to introduce Ganot, who told Saint Mary's players about the job Wednesday afternoon before catching a flight to Honolulu. Ganot and UH officials have declined comment, pending the official announcement.

Ganot, a New Jersey native whose name is pronounced eh-RON gah-knot, was a four-year starter and two-time captain at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania who broke into coaching as a volunteer assistant at Saint Mary's (2003-06) before coming to UH.

At UH he served under the last three full-time UH head coaches, Gib Arnold, Bob Nash and Riley Wallace. He was director of operations for Wallace (2006-07), was promoted to an assistant by Nash (2007-10) and briefly assisted in Arnold's transition (2010) before returning to Saint Mary's, a highly successful mid-major program.

Along the way, Ganot has gained a reputation for persistence, painstaking attention to detail, a tireless work ethic and an ability to be a quick study. Ganot reportedly came to the favorable attention of ESPN, which owns the Diamond Head Classic, and incoming UH athletic director David Matlin, who operated the event, while handling scheduling for the Gaels, who appeared in the tournament twice.

"Believe me I was glad to get him back and, now, having seen the unbelieveable growth in him as a person and a coach, I'm happy for him to be going back (to UH) as their head coach," Bennett said. "He's definitely ready to be a head coach. You guys got a real steal. He has a chance to become a real star in this profession — and at a young age."

Bruce O'Neil was 27 when he replaced Red Rocha as UH head coach in 1973. Rick Pitino was 23 when he became interim head coach for the final six games of the 1975-76 season after O'Neil stepped down.

Ganot served as Saint Mary's interim head coach for two and a half weeks in the 2013-14 season, going 3-2, when Bennett was suspended for an NCAA violation. He becomes the fourth of Bennett's Saint Mary's assistants to go on to a head coaching jobs at a U.S. college. Two others achieved head coaching posts in Australia.

Bennett's coaching tree includes Columbia head coach Kyle Smith, who was a finalist for the UH job this time was well as when it went to Arnold in 2010.

Smith was one of at least four sitting Division I head coaches, including UH interim coach Benjy Taylor, who either applied for the job or talked to UH. New Mexico State's Marvin Menzies, with five NCAA Tournament appearances, was among them.

While it is unlikely UH could have afforded Menzies, who is making a reported $382,294, or Smith, who is at $420,000, people who talked to Ganot said they felt he was the best "all-around fit" for UH at the moment.

Ganot, who will receive a three-year contract, will likely have a salary $100,000 below Arnold's $344,000 base salary.

He is also expected to have less than the approximately $700,000 salary pool that went to fund the salaries of Arnold, three assistants and an operations director.

Ganot will be asked to consider members of the current coaching staff, but will have free hand to select his own assistants.


Twenty-two wins. A conference championship game appearance. Goodwill from a significant portion of the Hawaii fan base.

Nope. Not good enough to lock down "a moving target," the football that Charlie Brown could never seem to kick. It was all never going to be satisfactory.

That's what a disappointed Benjy Taylor concluded after the interim coach was passed over for the long-term Hawaii basketball job this week. Saint Mary's assistant Eran Ganot will be introduced at a news conference at the Stan Sheriff Center at 9 a.m. Thursday.

In a 20-minute phone interview Wednesday, Taylor vented frustrations about behind-the-scenes campaigning and what he felt was unfair criticism of himself and his players.

As fifth-seeded UH mounted its improbable Big West tournament run to the title game in mid-March, some speculated that if the Rainbows beat UC Irvine and made it to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002, the permanent job would have to go to Taylor, the associate head coach who replaced the fired Gib Arnold just before the season's start. But UH fell behind the Anteaters in the final minutes and did not advance to a postseason tournament.

Taylor balked at the notion that his fortunes swung on that game.

"It wouldn't have mattered," he said. "The target, I never knew what the target was, and every time I thought that's where the target is, it was always moved. It was always moved. You know, I don't think it would have mattered. I'm not sure Sweet 16 would have mattered.

"Imagine if our guys don't get hurt in January and February and we win 25 games. It wouldn't have made a difference. What are you going to say, we go to the NCAA Tournament, they keep me? If we go to the Sweet 16, they keep me? OK, well they (administration) didn't think we were going to win eight to 10 games. ‘Just do the best you can, Coach. Just do the best you can.' We win 10. We win 12 before we start conference. Then we guaranteed a winning season. … In the conference tournament, twice in 13 years, (UH) won a first-round game? We do that. Then we won a second-round game. Then we go all the way down to the wire in the finals. And so, what, because we didn't win that game? We really want to tell the athletes that this is happening because you couldn't finish off the Irvine game? That's not the case. They wanted to go in a different direction."

*** [Reardon]

Unfortunately, a lot of fans don't get that the University of Hawaii does not exist solely for their sports entertainment.

If they did, their pea-brains wouldn't be exploding over Benjy Taylor not being retained as UH's basketball coach. Winning 22 games as interim coach is nice, especially commendable considering the situation he had to jump into right before the start of the season.

I like Benjy, a lot. He's fun to talk story with. He's witty, he can speak knowledgeably on a lot of subjects. He's passionate. But he's not the right person to lead UH basketball into the future.


Now, who stays, and who goes?

First, Ganot will have to assemble a staff of his own. He may consider elements of the current crew — Senque Carey, Brandon Loyd, Brad Autry and Jamie Smith — or bring in a totally new group from the outside. Associate head coach and regular assistant positions were posted on the “Work at UH” site on Wednesday.

Of course, player movement is a distinct possibility when you’ve got a regime change. You can bet that Ganot will make speaking to the team a top priority upon his arrival, and try to retain as much of the team as he can. UH has a young core that, as Taylor said many times, can do some really positive things if it sticks together for the long haul.

Well, it may be unrealistic to keep everyone.

Freshman guard Isaac Fleming gave the most overt indications that he may elect to move on. This is not a huge surprise, as Fleming was seen as incredibly loyal to Taylor, the coach who brought him into UH, and has a redshirt year to burn. Nothing is a certainty yet, however.

Many of you are not yet familiar with Ganot. He was the third assistant, and quite young, the last time he worked at UH under Bob Nash and through some of the transition to Gib Arnold. Those teams did not enjoy rampant success on the court, though Ganot was hailed for his tireless work ethic at the time. Jordan Coleman was to be one of his first signature recruits at UH, but Ganot landed softly at Saint Mary’s once Nash was dismissed. Coleman didn’t last long under Arnold, transferred to a junior college, and ended up having a productive three-year career at Valparaiso.

Now Ganot has a chance to build something in his own image. He’ll draw from his mentors, Riley Wallace and Randy Bennett, but things will inevitably take their own shape under this first-time head coach.

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