It’s almost comical the way some of this is working out. Almost. Hilarious, but not actually funny.
There was some long-awaited news on Tuesday as the University of Hawaii announced that its search committee had officially submitted its recommendation(s) for the school’s next athletics director to Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman. This concludes a two-month process in which the hand-selected, eight-person committee evaluated a number of candidates to replace Ben Jay, who is resigning in June.
Chancellor Bley-Vroman will next announce who will be taking the job on March 31. The reason I say it’s a bit comical is that the final day of the active recruiting period for men’s basketball is, yup, March 31. The NCAA actually outlines which dates are within the recruiting period, which dates fall in the quiet period and which are in the dead period. The recruiting period essentially ran from Sept. 9 of last year until this coming March 31, with some dead periods in between over the holidays.
So with all the uncertainty that has been constantly hovering over the men’s basketball season and with the way the coach and team overcame that ever present shadow, to now have the first whisper of answers and continuity coincidentally occur on the final day of recruiting makes me shake my head.
The school obviously had much more to look at than just the effect this entire process would have on men’s basketball, but I keep harping on it because it’s the men’s basketball program that has been and will be most effected. It’s the highest profile sport that will be critically impacted by the incoming athletics director and his or her thought process. He or she will determine whether Benjy Taylor will retain the position – which I certainly hope is the case – or if there will be a new face at the helm. The decision itself is almost moot, it’s the idea that someone will finally be able to relay that information that is of most importance.
I know of at least one recruit who passed on UH specifically because of the lack of answers the family was receiving about who would be the team’s head coach. There were likely others who have dismissed the ‘Bows as a possibility for the same reason.
And though I continue to shake my head, it’s hard to say that it’s really anyone’s fault or that anything could have been done differently. There’s a legitimate reason behind each twist and turn of this bizarre tale. The school decided to dismiss coach Gib Arnold – for still unverified reasons, five months later – and replaced him with Coach Taylor on an interim basis. Because Jay knew he would be leaving in June, he was in no position to give Taylor any job security. Because the school wanted to find an athletics director who could move the department financially out of the red, it needed to take its time and construct a proper search. Because nobody would be able to make a definitive statement on the basketball team’s future for many months, recruits were waiting on answers that simply didn’t exist.
It’s all defensible. The school has to look out for the best interest of its entire athletic department. But it cut the men’s basketball program’s knees out in the process and making this announcement on the final day of recruiting is just the icing on the cake.
I’m sure the school would have a retort for my critique, but they aren’t answering questions about the AD search until everything is made official. And while these are seemingly shortsighted issues that I’m bringing up and the school is likely more focused on long-term sustainability, men’s basketball programs can flourish quickly if the ambers are stoked correctly. The ‘Bows were a phenomenal story this year and have put together back-to-back 20-win seasons. That excitement could have translated into one or two transcendent incoming players. All of a sudden, UH becomes a hoops destination, rather than an afterthought.
That’s still not an impossible scenario, but it’s had everything working against it. Soon they’ll have answers to give, though they may not benefit the program for a couple of years. Until then, the ‘Bows will just have to continue overcoming obstacles as they did all season.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.