It's time to adjust his attitude
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Sometime this week Joan Wallace will likely sit down in her Las Vegas home and write a short note of encouragement to one of her favorite University of Hawai'i basketball players, Matt Gibson.
Riley Wallace's wife will undoubtedly end it, as she often does, with something about, "hanging in there."
It isn't just retired school teachers and grandmothers — or their ex-coach husbands — who dote on and wish the best for the complicated personality known as "Little Matt." Gibson is a fan favorite at the Stan Sheriff Center where, with the floor burns to prove it, he plays a relentless, crowd-pleasing style of basketball.
But the same full-throttle energy and filled-to-overflowing emotion that he plows into the game can, unchecked, sometimes be a detriment, responsible for keeping him off the court.
Such as Saturday when he was benched for the first 4 minutes, 41 seconds of a 58-53 victory at Idaho. The result, as head coach Bob Nash termed it, of an episode of "insubordination" at practice the previous day.
Make no mistake about it, Gibson's accumulated transgressions are hardly the stuff of a "Law & Order" installment. The police aren't knocking on his door. Gibson is engaging, can be exceedingly polite and down to earth. We're told, he will leave UH with a degree.
But at least five times in his UH career — including twice this season — Gibson has been benched for such "insubordinate" episodes. It might be a UH record for being put in "time out." It is enough so that folks now roll their eyes, as if to say, "that's Matt" when one is announced.
That's too bad because the weeks are winding down on Gibson's career at UH, where there are five regular-season home games remaining. Which is precisely the point. No longer is he the raw, shoot-from-the-lip sophomore he arrived as. Gibson is 23 and will soon be picking up a paycheck. Hopefully it will be playing the game he loves. And when he does, what Riley Wallace and, to a more indulgent extent, Nash have put up with, some coach in a professional league here or in Europe probably won't.
At that level graduation rate indexes, scholarship limitations and a thin bench won't be a hindrance to cutting somebody loose. Being an engaging "rascal" won't get you much slack. Not when there are plenty of guards, have jump shot, will travel, willing to toe a line.
As such, you'd hate to see Gibson's pursuit of a long-nurtured hoops dream cut short by lessons that should have been learned at UH, if not before.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.
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