Many great times at home sweet home
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
There were 1,631 fans in the Blaisdell Center Arena on Dec. 1, 1987.
That was Riley Wallace's first game as head coach of the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
"I always said we could take roll at our home games that first year," Wallace said. "But I always knew that if we won, the fans would come out. And they have."
Wallace will coach his final two regular-season home games this week when the Rainbow Warriors host Idaho on Thursday and Boise State on Saturday. His resignation will go into effect after this season — his 20th as head coach of the program.
Wallace would like to see a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 show up for Saturday's home finale, when he will be honored along with seniors Ahmet Gueye and Matt Lojeski. He's already promoting it as "Senior Night Sellout."
"The fans seem to respond to me because I'm emotional and I love them for it," said Wallace, 65. "Whenever I've asked them for help, they never let me down. So this is my last chance to ask them for help."
More often than not, the fans have been treated to victories by the 'Bows in Hawai'i. With Wallace as head coach, Hawai'i has won more than 71 percent of its home games.
Among the victories under Wallace are monumental upsets of No. 2-ranked Kansas and No. 4 Michigan State. There were also eight Rainbow Classic championships, and seven NIT games.
Among the coaches Wallace and the 'Bows have faced in Honolulu are Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Don Haskins, Jerry Tarkanian and Eddie Sutton.
There was also the transition from the Blaisdell Center Arena to the Stan Sheriff Center.
"I'm proud of it because I feel like we all grew together — the fans, the program, and me," Wallace said.
After 20 years and more than 300 home games, here are some of Wallace's most memorable:
DEC. 21, 1987
Wallace gets his first victory as Hawai'i head coach when the 'Bows beat Loyola (Md.), 102-69, before a crowd of 1,488 at the Blaisdell Arena.
Wallace remembers: "I thought we finally turned the corner, and we were going to be a good team after we scored that many points. But we only won three more games the rest of the year. It was still a good feeling, though, to get that first one."
MARCH 15, 1990
The 'Bows beat Stanford, 69-57, in the first round of the NIT. It is the first NIT game hosted by Hawai'i in the program's history, and the first postseason victory for Wallace.
Wallace remembers: "That was a very big game for us because it was here and against a name team like Stanford. We ended up winning, and I thought that was a turning point for our program."
MARCH 20, 1990
Hawai'i defeats Long Beach State, 84-79, before 7,617 rowdy fans at the Blaisdell Arena. It is the first home sellout during the Wallace era.
Tickets for the game were sold on a first-come, first-served basis, so fans stood in line overnight waiting for the Blaisdell box office to open. Wallace visited the fans in the middle of the night to thank them for their dedication.
Wallace remembers: "That goes down as the loudest, rowdiest crowd ever at the Blaisdell. The way they sold the tickets, all the rowdy fans got to sit at the bottom and they were feeling good. It felt like drums were beating in my ears the whole night, boom-boom-boom.
"The night before, I remember seeing that line for the tickets go all the way out to Kapi'olani (Blvd.), and I knew we had something special."
DEC. 30, 1990
Hawai'i upsets No. 11-ranked Pittsburgh, 84-82, in the championship game of the Rainbow Classic. It is the first of Wallace's eight Rainbow Classic titles.
Prior to Wallace's tenure as head coach, the 'Bows won three Rainbow Classic championships in 23 years.
Wallace remembers: "I remember it well because I got a call at 2 in the morning from (East Coast radio station) WFAN wanting to know who the officials were for the game because the Pittsburgh coach was saying they got jobbed in Hawai'i.
"I told them all three were from the Mainland, including one from the Big East (Conference), so we won fair and square."
NOV. 25, 1994
Hawai'i defeats St. Bonaventure, 82-72, in the first basketball game in the Stan Sheriff Center (which was known at the time as the Special Events Arena).
Wallace remembers: "I was actually a little disappointed because they opened (the arena) for something else instead of basketball. But it was still meaningful for me because it was such a beautiful arena and a dream-come-true for (former athletic director) Stan Sheriff that he never got to see."
DEC. 22, 1994
Led by future NBA stars Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, No. 1-ranked North Carolina defeats Hawai'i, 88-76. It is Wallace's only matchup against a No. 1 team.
It is also the first sellout in the Sheriff Center, and fans stand in line overnight for tickets.
Wallace remembers: "I know that they had Stackhouse, but Rasheed Wallace was the guy who went off on us. We competed with them for a little while.
"I'm not sure if that was the game, but I remember taking pizzas out to the fans who were waiting in line for tickets the night before."
FEB. 16, 1995
With the final seconds ticking away, Tes Whitlock chases down a long pass and launches a prayer from the right corner. The 3-pointer makes its way through the hoop as the buzzer sounds, giving the 'Bows a 73-70 victory over rival Brigham Young.
Wallace remembers: "It's always good to beat BYU, and that one was like a dagger. The way it ended, with that shot going over the edge of the backboard and falling in, it was amazing. And then we all got to watch it for a couple more weeks because they kept playing it on ESPN."
NOV. 28, 1997
Hawai'i opens its most anticipated season in the Wallace era with an 82-65 victory over Indiana and head coach Bob Knight before a capacity crowd at the Sheriff Center.
Led by seniors Anthony Carter and Alika Smith, the 'Bows played in front of 12 sellout crowds at home that season.
Wallace remembers: "I will always respect (Knight) as one of the greatest coaches of all-time, if not the greatest. So to get a win like that was big for me, personally."
DEC. 30, 1997
Hawai'i upsets No. 2 Kansas, 76-65, in the championship game of the Rainbow Classic. It is the greatest upset in Hawai'i basketball history.
Wallace remembers: "I drove in from Hawai'i Kai that day, and there was a beautiful rainbow centered perfectly over the dome of the Sheriff Center. It's the most beautiful rainbow I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of them in my 26 years of living here.
"So to this day, I am a believer in the rainbow, and will die a Rainbow Warrior."
MARCH 19, 1998
With a trip to New York at stake, WAC rival Fresno State defeats Hawai'i, 85-83, in the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Wallace remembers: "Probably the most disappointing loss of all. That was our most-watched team, and probably our most-beloved. Nobody wanted to see A.C. and Alika go out that way. We all wanted to go to New York."
FEB. 21, 2002
The 'Bows beat Tulsa, 86-85, in a showdown for first place in the WAC. It was part of Wallace's most successful season, as the 'Bows finished 27-6.
It was also the first "White-Out" game in the Sheriff Center, as a capacity crowd dresses in white shirts.
Wallace remembers: "That was a big game, and we win it. Tulsa was a really good program at the time, they were going to the NCAAs every year. But for a while, we had control of that streak where we were beating them.
"And I remember that 'White-Out' and how great it looked."
NOV. 19, 2005
Hawai'i upsets No. 4 Michigan State, 84-62, in the season opener. It was the 300th victory of Wallace's career at Hawai'i.
Current 'Bows Matt Lojeski, Ahmet Gueye, Matt Gibson and Bobby Nash all contributed in the victory.
Wallace remembers: "That one has a lot of meaning because some of these guys (on this season's team) were there. Our guys were red-hot, and it was just a fun game to watch."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.