My encounter with Coach Riley Wallace

If you’re a University of Hawai‘i basketball fan, then you probably have a story or two about a game you’ve attended. Maybe even one or two on Coach Riley Wallace.

I attended games while I was an undergrad there from 1998 to 2001. I attended them as an alum.

I even hoped when my brother goes to college, he would play for Wallace. But even if my brother does chooses going to Hawai‘i over Arizona State, he won’t get to play for Wallace.

Wallace announced his resignation in December, with his contract ending on April 30.

Last night was his final home game at the Stan Sheriff Center. I really wanted to go to it, too.

Wallace got the win he needed to tie former Hawai‘i women’s coach Vince Goo’s record of 334 for the most victories. He needs one more to break it.

Wallace ranks second all-time in league history in overall victories (334) and Western Athletic Conference wins (166) behind coach Don Haskins (562 and 262). With his 20 years of service to Hawai‘i, he’s got the second longest tenure, trailing Haskins.

On the court, we sometimes saw him yelling and screaming, but I have to say that my last encounter with him was a pleasant one.

Even though I couldn’t make it to last night’s game, I’m glad I got to attend the last “Call the Coach with Riley Wallace” radio show at the Willows in Honolulu last week. The coach I saw on the court was a very different coach from what I saw there.

He was nice, shaking hands with people and having a good time. His family, basketball fans and former Hawai‘i players were there.

Towards the end of the show, though, you could tell the realization of it being his last show, got to him. Callers asked him his top 10 players of all-time, top 10 games of all time and as he reminisced the 20 years and talked about the future of the team, he choked up a bit and had to pause. The show’s host even tried to cut in to save Wallace from getting too emotional on air.

Wallace abrubtly stopped in for his final words, “Fight for the locals, and I’ll leave you with that,” he said as he commented on giving locals a chance to take over the coaching position.

What I liked about him was that he welcomed fans criticisms. He said it was a fans right to disagree with his decisions because if they bought tickets to the games, they were entitled to their opinions.

When the show was over, he joined me, my boyfriend and the general manager of the station broadcasting the show to casually talk about the school and the team.

You could tell that he will genuinely miss the team. They are now 18-2, 8-8 in the WAC and finish up on the road.

We joked about inviting him to my wedding. He even joked that he was going to bring the biggest gift.

I wasn’t able to make it to his last game, but at least I got to spend some time with him at the show. As I left the show, I wished him luck in the future. He in turn wished me a long and happy marriage.

Good luck again, coach. I’ll still be expecting that wedding gift.

That’s my experience with the coach.

Feel free to sound off to me with yours.

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