Tough act to follow: Taylor out after 22-win season

When I first heard the news of the Hawaii men’s basketball hire, I was pretty stunned. Though there was certainly reason to read the writing on the wall and think there may be a new face at the end of the Warriors’ bench next season, my feeling was that UH would recognize what Benjy Taylor accomplished this year and deem him the best candidate to continue the program’s upward trend.

But after being initially reported Wednesday, the announcement was made official Thursday stating that former UH assistant Eran Ganot will be the team’s new head coach. I’m certainly wishing Coach Ganot the best — I mean, he’s a Jersey boy.

On the one hand, the hire makes sense. He has strong ties to the program, having been an assistant and director of basketball operations. There are new faces, but Ganot is familiar with the inner workings of the UH athletic department. That should aid in the adjustment period any new head coach encounters.

Ganot must have demonstrated a strong knack for the recruiting process. UH wouldn’t hire a 33-year-old first-time coach without believing he could go out and attract young talent, because the recruits certainly won’t be committing based on name recognition. Ganot has been responsible for recruiting during his first stint with Hawaii and his tenure at St. Mary’s.

He’ll have to not only be able to attract new players, but keep the ones UH already has, which has been a problem for Hawaii in recent years. Hopefully all the young talent Hawaii developed this season is committed to sticking around with Coach Ganot and those who had made Hawaii their desired destination — like junior college transfer Austin Pope — will still be unpacking in Manoa come the fall.

So, sure. A young coach with some roots here who knows the recruiting trail. In a vacuum, that all seems optimal.

But something about this whole process comes across as unfair. Considering where this team was at the beginning of the season, the way the players responded to Taylor and the wave of excitement they all rode towards a 22-win campaign, is it really the right time to wipe the slate clean? Again?

Though I remained cautiously optimistic that Taylor would be the ultimate choice, maybe this was never a proper pairing. There were opportunities for the two sides to get together before the position was deemed “vacant” and nothing materialized, which shouldn’t be blamed solely on the administration. Coach Taylor is also fairly outspoken, which could have signaled a red flag for some of the decision makers.

Just a couple weeks ago, Taylor made a cryptic comment during an interview with Warrior Insider. “There are going to be people out there that don’t want this program to be successful, period,” he said. “We could still be playing right now and going to the Sweet Sixteen, there will still be people out there that don’t want that to happen. That’s pretty transparent. At the end of the day, we know what we accomplished this year and everyone else in the world knows what we accomplished this year.”

All along, Coach Taylor indicated publicly that he felt he had earned the position, but also that he wasn’t sure the administration would be in his corner. He was certainly correct about one and quite possibly both of those points. Once the season ended, Benjy Taylor was simply one of the 80 candidates hoping to man the UH clipboard — and now he’s just one of the 79 who didn’t get the phone call they were hoping for.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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