HAWAII FIRES WOMEN'S HOOPS COACH
Wahine hoops coach gets boot
By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rick Daysog
University of Hawai'i women's basketball coach Jim Bolla was fired after former players complained about a "pattern of verbal abuse."
UH dismissed the 57-year-old Bolla on Monday "for cause," meaning the university had a reason to fire him and is not bound to honor the remaining two years on his contract, which pays an estimated $120,000 a year.
Bolla, the Rainbow Wahine's coach since 2004, was placed on leave Feb. 13 after school officials investigated allegations he kicked one of his players.
Bolla also received a warning last year after school officials investigated allegations of verbal abuse from team members.
"There was a pattern of verbal abuse," said former UH player Pamela Tambini. "He played mental games. He basically tried to break us down and intimidate us.
"Girls hated going to practice. They dreaded going on the road. It was bad."
UH announced Bolla's termination in a terse news release yesterday but would not discuss the terms of his firing.
"It's a personnel matter and I don't have any authority to make a comment," Athletic Director Jim Donovan said in a conference call with reporters.
Bolla did not return calls seeking a comment.
A spokeswoman for the Hawaii Government Employees Association said it plans to file a grievance on Bolla's behalf. She declined further comment.
Under his contract, Bolla can file a grievance only if he is fired or suspended for cause, said local attorney Michael Nauyokas, an expert on labor law and a frequent arbitrator on employment disputes.
The "for cause" determination relieves the university from paying Bolla for the remaining two years on his contract, said Nauyokas, who reviewed Bolla's contract at the request of The Advertiser.
By filing a grievance, Bolla can ask UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw to overturn his firing or the "for cause" determination, Nauyokas said. If the firing is upheld by Hinshaw, he can take his grievance to an outside arbitrator.
UH ran into trouble when the board of regents attempted to fire President Evan Dobelle "for cause" in 2004. The cause was never specified, and Dobelle threatened to sue for wrongful termination.
Under a mediation agreement, Dobelle agreed to resign as president on Aug. 14, 2004, with a $1.8 million severance package.
Former player Tanya Smith said Bolla mocked "almost every person on the team" for being gay. He also improperly obtained her medical records, which are protected under federal law.
"I understand coaches yelling and getting upset at players for things that pertain to basketball skills, but when it becomes personal and relates in no way to basketball, then it is a problem," Smith said in an e-mail from Australia, where she lives.
Tambini, who was reached by phone in Florida, said players complained for years about their treatment by Bolla to Herman Frazier, the former UH athletic director, but he apparently didn't take any action.
She said Bolla degraded players about their weight, made derisive comments about their sexuality and blamed losses on players such as herself who were recruited by former coach Vince Goo.
"Everybody knew about it and did nothing about it," Tambini said.
"We were going through hell. No student should have had to go through that. It's not fair."
SEARCH FOR NEW COACH
Before coming to UH, Bolla coached at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for 14 years before resigning in 1996.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in December 1992 that Bolla struck a player during a practice.
The former UNLV player, Tracy Titus, told The Advertiser in February that Bolla struck her after he ordered her to run at him during a drill.
Titus said Bolla later apologized for the incident but maintained in a statement to the UNLV athletic director that Titus had "run into his hand."
Titus also said she saw Bolla grab another player "around the neck" during a game at UH during the 1992-93 season.
UH has started a national search for a new women's basketball coach and has appointed a search committee that will be chaired by UH senior woman administrator Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano.
Other members on the committee will include Goo, the former coach; tourism authority member David Uchiyama; attorney and gender equity advocate Jill Nunokawa; and businessman and UH supporter Don Murphy.
Current player Dita Liepkalne said yesterday's announcement brings some closure to the uncertainties surrounding Bolla's tenure.
"I think the team is just glad that we know what's going to happen now. Before, we were kind of kept from what was happening and everyone was questioning what was happening. Now we can move forward because the decision is finalized," she said.
"Of course it will be different, but we're going to have to wait and see if it's worse or better."Advertiser reporter Dayton Morinaga contributed to this report.
Reach Rick Daysog at firstname.lastname@example.org.