UH hopes he's worth waiting for
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i's next baseball coach is a busy guy this week.
Somewhere out there, the man who will guide the Rainbows in 2002 is preparing another team for the NCAA Regionals, perhaps as close to coming to UH as two games away or as distant as a run to Omaha and the College World Series.
In a selection process shrouded in secrecy and punctuated with rumor, this much is certain: The man who will be anointed only the Rainbows' second Division I baseball coach is currently where UH wants to get back to being . . . in the 64-team postseason field.
That's why, even after the Les Murakami era and the regular season have ended, there has been no successor announced. It is why the "vacancy" sign is still posted at Rainbow Stadium and athletic director Hugh Yoshida remains in the "no comment" mode.
Nor, it is interesting to note, is there any sense of panic over the situation, suggesting the Rainbows are pretty confident they have their bases covered pending the end of the postseason.
For sure there is a six-figure offer sitting squarely on Pat Murphy's table in Tempe, Ariz., where it has been the Arizona State coach's job to turn down for more than two months now. The fact that Murphy has refused to do so, even in the face of what has been described as an improved offer from ASU, says he remains the front-runner and UH is willing to hold the position open a little longer.
Perhaps Murphy is just waiting to put the last of his ASU obligations behind him, looking for an opportune window in a contract with exacting buy-out provisions, before signing on the dotted line. Or, maybe, he is genuinely undecided.
Either way, this is college baseball, where it is always advisable to have somebody standing by in the bullpen. And the Rainbows give the impression they do. Mike Trapasso, the top assistant at Georgia Tech, which is appearing in a regional, is known to still be high on the Rainbows' list. And at least three head coaches of other teams in the tournament reportedly have also communicated with UH on a "what if" basis.
Ideally, of course, it wouldn't have come to this late date. In a best-case scenario there would have been a smooth dugout transition had Murakami and the school been able to agree on a successor for him to groom. Unfortunately, for all involved, that didn't happen.
Then, in deference to their coach of 31 years, the Rainbows chose to wait until the fall to begin the selection process, a point at which few coaches already under contract were willing to consider a move.
For nearly 12 months now, ever since last May's announcement that a change would be made, UH chose to bide its time. Now, what it does in the coming weeks will determine if that patience is to be rewarded.