Nash's future will play out on court
By Ferd Lewis
Bob Nash's 31-year investment in University of Hawai'i men's basketball will earn him the chance to finish this season as the head coach, but without a run in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament even that doesn't appear likely to buy him another one.
At least that would seem to be the message if you read between the lines on what little athletic director Jim Donovan is saying about the situation and Donovan's early track record.
As the 'Bows hit the road for their final two regular season games, Donovan reiterated that he will "wait until the end of the season" to announce a decision on whether Nash will return for a contracted fourth campaign.
"I'll meet with Bob after the season plays out," Donovan said. "That's all I'll say now."
It would be consistent with how Donovan handled the baseball situation last year when he waited until the conclusion of the WAC Tournament to announce the return of Mike Trapasso.
Trapasso, however, had a 32-26 record, which was an improvement upon the 29-31 of 2008, and met the "demonstrated progress" test that Donovan has publicly maintained is a major criteria for coaches.
But even with Saturday's rousing victory over Nevada on Senior Night, the basketball 'Bows are currently 10-18 (3-11 WAC) following a 13-17 (5-11) season.
They are short of the 18 wins Nash "guaranteed" at last year's banquet, though, to be sure, injuries and suspensions enter into the equation.
But with five seniors this was still supposed to be the payoff season for a veteran team and if the 'Bows fail to make the WAC Tournament or get there and flame out in the first round again, that's not "progress."
If this was another coach with a 34-54 record over three seasons, you suspect the decision might have already been announced to go in another direction.
But on the UH campus, where he has contributed as a player with the legendary Fabulous Five in the early 1970s and for nearly three decades as a coach, Nash isn't just another coach as the "Hawaii Loves Nash" signs in the crowd Saturday attested.
It was just three years ago on Riley Wallace's farewell night that the Stan Sheriff Center crowd chanted "We want Nash!" as then-athletic director Herman Frazier got an ear-ful.
Combine that with the memories stirred by the recent passing of Fabulous Five coach Red Rocha and the way UH fumbled his reassignment, and you can see where Nash is being given every chance to make what he can of this season. However steep the task has become.
If the 'Bows could somehow go on one of those classic WAC Tournament runs that Wallace engineered, it would make the decision easier — and cheaper — for financially stretched UH, which would otherwise be obligated to buy out the estimated $240,000 or so of Nash's final year.
Wallace's teams, however, usually found their spark before Senior Night and weren't coming out of a nine-game losing streak to do it.
As the 'Bows head to Boise State and Idaho for their final two regular season games and whatever might come after that, the results ultimately figure to make clear what Donovan so far hasn't.