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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 17, 2004

Bolla wants UH women to play uptempo

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

After an eight-year coaching break, Jim Bolla jumped back onto the scene as the new University of Hawai'i women's basketball coach yesterday.

Bolla, 52, started the first day of his three-year, $360,000 job yesterday, after retiring as the Nevada-Las Vegas women's basketball coach in 1996.

"I'm ready to go," said Bolla, who was introduced at a UH press conference. "I can go right now. I got a bum (right) knee, but I'll be out there every day fighting. I think I still have a lot to offer these young women."

Bolla succeeds Vince Goo, the state's winningest basketball coach. Goo announced his retirement in February after 20 seasons, 17 as head coach.

Bolla takes over a Rainbow Wahine program that has posted eight winning seasons in the past nine years, but dipped to 8-20 last season. He also wants to improve on fan attendance, a total that peaked at 2,126 a game in the late 1990s with star players Nani Cockett and BJ Itoman.

"We've got to educate people, get them involved in our program," Bolla said. "You'll get the people to show up when you're winning. It's when you're having tough times, those are the people you count on."

Yesterday, Bolla downplayed concerns about his eight-year coaching absence.

"X's and O's don't change," said Bolla, who worked as UNLV's chief fund-raiser and ran a barbecue business when he wasn't coaching. "It's like riding a bike. You don't forget."

UH athletic director Herman Frazier said he didn't know of Bolla before the search, but the UH committee talked to several contacts, including former UNLV administrators, who all gave Bolla great reviews.

"There's no question he's a terrific fund-raiser," Frazier said. "He brings a lot of experience and success to the position, and I'm sure the fans and the student-athletes will come to like him."

Bolla said he planned to speak with Goo's former assistants, Da Houl and Serenda Valdez, but had not formulated a coaching staff. Bolla's wife, Dallas Boychuk, a former head women's basketball coach at Long Beach State, said she had no interest in joining the UH staff yesterday. The Bollas have a 3-year-old daughter, Sasha.

Bolla said he had several ideas to boost attendance; one was to get more involved in community activities, giving the program additional recognition and a personal connection with fans.

"You want to get to the point where people in the community identify with the individuals," Bolla said. "It's not about Jim Bolla. It's about these young student-athletes. They're the story."

All 14 Rainbow Wahine — including two redshirts — had said they would return for this season. Bolla said he likes the team's youth, and vowed open competition for starting roster spots. The team has only two seniors.

"I'm not going to look at any tape or anything," Bolla said. "I'm going to give everybody the benefit. We're going to start from scratch."

Bolla said he planned to speed up the Rainbow Wahine's playing style, and talked of installing a high-powered offense that has "27 options to score" off one particular play.

"I'm a big uptempo guy," Bolla said. "I like to do pressure defense, fast breaks. I'm a big man-to-man (defensive) guy. We're going to have a lot of people playing. With the personnel we have, it will work."

Bolla said he leaves for the Mainland tomorrow to recruit players and plans to return to Hawai'i to watch a basketball tournament in a month. The UH season starts with the Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic on Nov. 20-21.

During his 14-year tenure at UNLV from 1982 to 1996, Bolla became the most successful coach in the program's history with a record of 300-120. He led the Lady Rebels to nine postseason appearances, including seven NCAA Tournament bids, and 11 seasons of 20 or more wins.

In the 1989-90 season, the Lady Rebels were ranked second in the nation in the AP and USA Today polls, before finishing the season with a 28-3 mark.

After stepping away from coaching in 1996, he became the Director of Athletic Development at UNLV, where as chief fund-raiser he generated more than $5 million for the UNLV athletic department, including a $3.1 million gift to build a new softball stadium.

In 2001, Bolla left UNLV and entered private business, including running a barbecue business.

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2458.