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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 11, 2010

UH should call on Gaels' assistant


By Ferd Lewis

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kyle Smith

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Word buzzing around Mānoa is that Jamie Dixon, head coach of 16th-ranked Pittsburgh, called the University of Hawai'i to discuss the Rainbow Warriors' head basketball coaching job.

OK, please take a deep breath before reading on.

But what had been athletic director Jim Donovan's biggest dream next to a balanced budget having Dixon, a former UH assistant, ask for the job was burst by reality in the first couple of minutes of conversation.

Donovan declined comment but we're told Dixon, at least, did not leave the 'Bows without a parting gift, reportedly recommending Saint Mary's associate head coach Kyle Smith for the vacancy.

Dozens of people are bending UH's ear to offer up nominations and testimonials these days. Enough so that Donovan did confirm his cell phone has twice gone dead and he is a candidate for matching cauliflower ears. What was noteworthy about Dixon's call was two-fold: First it was Dixon, who was acutely aware of what UH needs and what it can afford and, second, we're told, it was unsolicited.

Smith apparently had not yet asked for the recommendation. But Dixon, from his strong ties with the program over the years (1992-94 and 1998-99) took it upon himself to offer a suggestion about someone he once went head-to-head with in recruiting skirmishes .

Smith has it pretty good at Saint Mary's, which just knocked off Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament. He is the successor designate if head coach Randy Bennett, something of a hot property on the West Coast, leaves. And the deeper Saint Mary's goes in the NCAA Tournament the more looks Smith figures to get as well.

Smith, 40, said he "has an interest in talking to Hawai'i" but declined additional comment yesterday.

Smith, who was here when the Gaels beat UH in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in December, apparently has told friends of the potential he sees in the UH job and the interest he's built up from afar. The family of his wife, Katie, lived here for nearly 50 years, so it isn't hard to imagine she'd like to get back here.

What could make Smith an intriguing possibility for UH are not only his West Coast recruiting ties from years at the University of San Diego and Saint Mary's, but the pipeline he's built into Australia and the ways the Gaels have blended the two over the years to help turn around what had been a 2-27 program.

If you're UH, a recommendation from Dixon is something worth investigating. Especially if you don't have $1.5 million on hand to get the original.