I can understand wanting to be prudent. I can understand wanting to base decisions on evaluation rather than impulse. I can even understand that the game of musical chairs in the athletic director’s office could very well be the root cause for the silent treatment.
But the lack of vocal clarity regarding the direction of the men’s basketball program – specifically as to its plans for a head coach – could end up hurting the University of Hawaii’s recruiting efforts.
Having never given a full explanation for its removal of departed head coach Gib Arnold or assistant Brandyn Akana in the original Oct. 28 announcement, very little has been made clear since. The context of their firings is still murky, though it seems to have stemmed from an altered admissions document the NCAA had been investigating since last January.
Filling Arnold’s position with assistant Benjy Taylor seemed like a stopgap measure at the time, but the results have been hard to argue with since. All Taylor has done is taken a group that lost four of five starters from last year’s 20-win team, including all-conference selection Isaac Fotu, and run out to a 12-5 record with three wins over power conference clubs. This week, he won the Hugh Durham midseason award for the country’s best mid-major head coach.
But something else that happened this week was an email finding its way to my inbox. It was from a man saying that his son is currently being recruited by UH. Now approaching the final months of his senior year in high school, it’s coming down to the wire for his son and the family to reach a decision. He asked me if I was aware of a timeline for determining Hawaii’s coaching situation.
That’s not a good sign.
If UH is not able to properly communicate its future plans to a player it seems to be actively recruiting, or if the recruit’s family feels it has a better chance receiving answers to its questions from reporters rather than the school, itself, then those are problems that need to be rectified quickly.
With the way the ‘Bows have performed during the first half of the season and how Coach Taylor seems to have salvaged a sense of identity for a team that could have very easily frayed at the seams, I can’t imagine another individual being named the long-term head coach. But he does still carry the “interim” or “acting head coach” tag around with him.
Little, some or most of the reason for that could be that athletic director Ben Jay is scheduled to leave his position in June. It’s probably not been an easy two years for Jay, with much of 2014 apparently consisting of this NCAA investigation we still know almost nothing about. With his departure imminent and the athletic director position responsible for the hiring and firing of coaches, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jay and UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman determined that committing to any coach for the long term before having input from whomever becomes the new athletic director would be unwise. And I don’t necessarily disagree with that thinking.
But it is very likely coming at the expense of its current stature in the eyes of potential recruits. It’s hard enough get top talent. Parents, especially from the Mainland, are going to be even more reticent about sending their kids to UH if they’re unsure which coach will be on the sidelines for their sons’ next four years.
The ‘Bows are a feel-good story so far this season, but it would behoove the program to make its future story a little less of a mystery.