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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, July 30, 2004

Goo truly had magic touch

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

At 86, Ah Chew Goo is still fluid and graceful, and quick enough to make you flinch when executing a move.

Have a blast with our past

Learn about Hawai'i's sports history and those who figured prominently in it in this fun and informative feature. We'll ask a question Thursday and present the answer in a profile Friday.

Q: All three of his sons were involved with basketball at the University of Hawai'i, but during his day this man had ball-handling skills that even Pete Maravich would emulate. Who is he?

A: Ah Chew Goo, now 86, is considered one of the best basketball players Hawai'i has ever produced. He led Hilo High to three Territorial titles from 1934 to 1936. He also coached UH from 1954 to 1956. His three sons — Vince, Darryl and Keenan — have been involved with basketball at UH.

It offers a glimpse into what Goo was like while making a name for himself as one of Hawai'i's greatest basketball players.

It has been years since he played, but his ability with the ball is still spoken about by the lucky few who were around during his playing days.

Called the "Mandarin Magician," Goo has left his legacy upon the basketball world — not just in Hawai'i.

"I remember when Pete Maravich came to play in the Rainbow Classic for (Louisiana State)," said Goo's son, former University of Hawai'i women's basketball coach Vince Goo. "I heard (LSU coach) Press (Maravich) ask Jimmy Aiona if the guy Ah Chew Goo was still around. He went over and introduced himself to my dad."

Vince said when Press Maravich was single and stationed in Hawai'i, he told himself if he ever got married and had a son, he was going to teach him all the tricks he saw Goo perform.

"Pistol" Pete Maravich, renowned for his ball-handling skills, became a five-time NBA All-Star.

According to Vince, Press Maravich said Goo was "the best ball-handler I've ever seen."

Goo's contributions to basketball extend beyond his own feats on the court. All three of his sons have played active roles with UH basketball.

Vince, who retired last season, is Hawai'i's winningest college coach. Darryl announced games for the men's team during the "Fabulous Five" era in the '70s. Keenan has been an announcer for the Rainbow Warriors for the past 25 years.

Goo himself coached the Rainbow Warriors from 1954-56.

But his introduction into the local spotlight began long before his involvement with UH.

It started in Hilo, where Goo began to hone his basketball skills, beginning at age 7.

"Hilo was a pretty good basketball town," Goo recalled. "There's a fallacy that Hilo produced good basketball players because it rains so much. But there was one gym available."

Goo practiced shots using a volleyball, because "(basketballs) were hard to get at that time."

His "basket" was a wooden carton with an open top nailed to one of the walls in an empty apartment. Because people lived in the surrounding apartments, he couldn't let the ball bounce on the wall or the floor, so "I had to make it in."

He practiced his passing on telephone poles when walking down the street.

"There's always someone better than you," said Goo, who stood only 5 feet, 4 1/2 inches. "But I was always trying to be better than someone else."

That philosophy paid off as he grew into one of the state's most prolific ball handlers, leading Hilo High to three straight Territorial titles from 1934-36.

"His reputation was such that he did everything with the basketball that people weren't doing at the time," former UH men's basketball coach Red Rocha said. "He was unusually quick and a really good passer."

Rocha, who coached UH from 1963-73, is the only Hawai'i-born and -raised player to play in the NBA. But he said Goo should "have to be considered one of the better basketball players in Hawai'i history. He was way ahead of his time."

After high school Goo traveled on the Mainland with the Hawai'i All-Star Basketball team. In 1940, he "retired" from the sport because of a stomach ailment he got from practicing so much.

Ah Chew Goo, now 86, was "way ahead of his time," said former University of Hawai'i coach Red Rocha.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

It was after his "retirement" that Goo seems to have some of his fondest memories. He played in a promotional game with Hank Luisetti, who would later become enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

"The first time I got the ball, I got up and made like I was going to shoot the ball," Goo said. "He was looking up at the basket. I passed it to him and the ball hit his stomach and hit the floor."

Luisetti, a two-time All-American at Stanford, told the Hawai'i Tribune-Herald, "I never had so much fun in my life, don't know if Stanford will ever want him, but he certainly can play for my club any day."

In his mid-30s Goo coached a local team in a game against the Harlem Globetrotters. Before the game he asked if he could pull two stunts: one where he would replace a basketball with a deflated ball after a timeout so when a player tried to dribble it, it wouldn't bounce, and the other to tie fishing line around a ball so he could pull it back while other players dived after it.

The coach told him no, but the next year when the Globetrotters returned, they used those two tricks.

"I originated that, I take credit for that," Goo said.

Goo also traveled from island to island giving basketball clinics to high schools.

Giving back to the community is part of what makes him special, said his wife, Clara.

"He's a very good father, a good husband, and a very, very good friend," she said.

Goo has served as a mentor, role model and example, helping to set the standard for today's basketball players.

"He has a great knowledge of the game," Vince said. "Some of the things he tells me recently, he did as a player long ago, and some of the things never changed.

"Older people that saw him play say he is the greatest basketball player to come out of Hawai'i. People in their 70s and 80s say that. It has been 60 years now, and people still think he's the greatest."


"Thank Goo For the Memories", a fund-raiser honoring retired Rainbow Wahine basketball coach Vince Goo, begins at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Stan Sheriff Center. Table prices range from $1,000 to $5,000. Individual tickets are $100. Forms are available at www.hawaiiathletics.com or call Michelle Kaminaga at 956-4325.

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.