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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 31, 2006

UH's Bolla draws line, sticks to it

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

When you're suddenly struggling after a 10-2 start gone sour, one of the last things a college basketball coach wants to do is start meting out suspensions.

When you're on the road in the midst of the conference season, nobody wants to ship players home.

So, give University of Hawai'i women's basketball coach Jim Bolla some credit for making the tough decisions the past couple of weeks. And having the fortitude to stick by them as the losses have mounted.

Bolla last week suspended and sent home three players, two of them starters, from a Western Athletic Conference road trip for what were classified as violations of team policies, including curfew rules.

One of them, starting post player Alofa Toiaivao, later had her suspension extended for the remainder of the year while starting forward Pam Tambini and reserve guard Saundra Cariaga were eventually reinstated after serving one-game penalties and being assessed community service time.

None of the actions, especially Toiaivao's, could have come easy for the Rainbow Wahine who, after their best start (10-2) in four years, have lost five of their past six games as they embark upon another road trip this week.

Toiaivao, at 6 feet 4, one of the tallest players, was second in rebounds last year fourth in scoring and led the WAC in blocked shots.

The easy thing to have done in all of the above cases would have been to overlook or minimize the situation. It wouldn't have been the first time some coach at UH or elsewhere looked the other way after curfew or assigned a few post-practice wind sprints and called it even.

Yet, Bolla and his staff have stuck by their stance even as Hawai'i has dropped into eighth place in the conference at 2-5 (11-7 overall).

One of the things you had to respect about Bolla's predecessor, Vince Goo, was the no-nonsense approach to running a program. Players knew where they stood when they came in, what was expected of them when they were here and what would happen if responsibilities weren't met. Maybe that's why incidents were few and victories and graduations were many.

So, you had to wonder what would happen when the Rainbow Wahine changed coaching hands. Indeed, watching Bolla on the sidelines he sometimes seems detached, though his players have maintained that can be deceiving if you aren't a regular visitor to practice.

While it remains to be seen how the Rainbow Wahine will finish out this season in the standings, it would be a surprise if team rules took a beating again.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.