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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 12, 2007

New assistant Farmer has old ties here

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: Farmer joins UH basketball coaching staff
 •  Hoping to add dash of UCLA wizardry
Video: UH Basketball: Featuring Larry Farmer

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Thirty-five years ago, his former college roommate would call and write about the experience of playing basketball at the University of Hawai'i and invite Larry Farmer to visit.

Twenty-two years ago, Farmer applied for the head coaching job at UH.

Twenty years ago on vacation here as the coach at Weber State amid the resignation of head coach Frank Arnold, people told Farmer how he should look into a job at UH.

Yesterday, Farmer, 56, leaned back in a chair in the Rainbow Warriors' basketball office on his first day as an assistant coach at UH and said, "my mother says nothing happens before its time ... and this is the right time."

"It is a good fit," Bob Nash said of the man who completes his coaching staff. "I've known him a long time, he's a great coach who brings a lot to the table and I'm glad to have him."

Farmer gained fame playing on three John Wooden national champion teams at UCLA in the early 1970s that went a combined 89-1. "That's when I first became aware of him," said Nash, who played for the Rainbows at the time.

The two would have met in the second round of the 1972 NCAA Tournament in Pocatello, Idaho had UH gotten by Weber State so it wasn't until Nash and Farmer were assistant coaches at their respective alma maters that they struck up a friendship on the recruiting trail. "You get to know the people you see in all the gyms and places," Nash said.

"I first got to know about Hawai'i from my former roommate, Marv Vitatoe, who transferred from UCLA here," Farmer said. "He would call and write letters telling me how beautiful it was. I'll tell you what, it made me want to come over here in the summer. Since then I always had a curiosity about what it would be like to live here."

When Larry Little resigned in 1985, Farmer, who served as UCLA head coach from 1981-84, applied for the job that eventually went to a former UCLA assistant, Frank Arnold.

Two years later when Arnold left, Farmer said he happened to be on vacation. "I cashed in all my miles to come over," Farmer said. "Like everybody else, I (was) surprised. I was just here on vacation. A surprising number of people recognized me and after (Arnold's resignation), fans asked me if I was here to interview for the job."

He wasn't and Riley Wallace eventually got the position. Farmer later called trying to get games for his teams, Weber State and Loyola of Chicago. Said Farmer: "I guess I was always trying to get here."

Vitatoe, who played for UH in 1972 and is now an executive recruiter in Dallas, said: "I'm glad he finally made it. It is a good place for him; he'll do a real good job and the fans will like him."

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.