Wednesday, January 10, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Attracting right coach takes time

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

When it comes to the selection of the next University of Hawaii baseball coach, be prepared to wait a while.

Grab a Snickers. Pull up a comfortable chair. Finish reading "War and Peace" — in the original Russian. We could be here a spell.

Although the process started more than a month ago, it might be late in the season — or even the conclusion of the NCAA playoffs — before the Rainbows get around to announcing a successor to Les Murakami.

And, believe it or not, that might be the best alternative open to them at this point. If the Rainbows are serious about getting an accomplished coach who is already under contract somewhere, this might be the only way they can do it under the current time constraints.

Ideally, they would name a new coach soon so recruiting could begin and there would be a smooth transition toward the 2002 season.

But the reality is the calendar has reached a point where a lot of the coaches UH would have an interest in, the ones already employed, are reluctant to bail out at the start of the season.

As Lenn Sakata, who is under contract to the San Francisco Giants organization, and some Division I head coaches, have told The Advertiser, it would be difficult for them to leave their employers hanging now.

One veteran of several NCAA tournaments said, "I don’t think you’re going to find many head coaches who are willing to leave their teams right now. That just isn’t done in this business. That would be career suicide."

And, would UH really want somebody who pulled up stakes that fast? If there was no compunction about jumping to Manoa in the midst of a season, there might not be any about leaving the Rainbows in a lurch, either.

Of course, UH could have avoided the current dilemma by beginning the process soon after Murakami’s announcement last May that this would be his final season. In deference to Murakami’s 31 years as the school’s only Division I head coach, school officials said they chose to wait until the fall.

Now, as the season draws near and several schools have already started practice, the feeling at UH apparently is that for what they will sacrifice in early recruiting opportunities there are enhanced odds of attracting a top-of-the-line coach by waiting a few more months.

Indeed, a much-decorated college head coach who asked that his name not be used at this point, said he is interested in pursuing the UH job, but only if it doesn’t impact his current season. "In a few months," the coach said, "I’d really be interested in pursuing it."

Which sets up the possibility that UH could decide on and secure a successor in April but hold off an official announcement until season’s end.

Meanwhile, you might not want to hold your breath waiting for the puff of smoke to emerge from Manoa.

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