Basketball battle resumes off court
By Ferd Lewis
For a couple of months this men's basketball season the University of Hawai'i and Boise State were engaged in a desperate battle to escape the ignominious cellar and squeeze into the eighth and last berth in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
Now, while the season is over for both of them, the competition might only be heating up.
With the Broncos' Friday firing of Greg Graham (yes, a 19-point victory over UH this month and a WAC Tournament berth still weren't enough to save his job after a 15-17 finish) they could find their candidate pools overlapping and interests colliding.
Already there is speculation that Gib Arnold, an avowed candidate for the Rainbow Warriors' job, is under consideration at Boise, too.
That wouldn't be a surprise since Gib's father, Frank, who coached UH for two seasons (1985-87), lives in Boise and Gib's only head coaching job was at College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, where he was 57-14 and finished third in the 2005 National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament.
Currently, there are three mid-major head coaching jobs open in the West — UH, Boise State and UC Irvine (which also beat UH this season) — that intensifies the competition — and urgency — to find a coach.
Of the three, Boise has the biggest arena (12,380 seating capacity) and has so far been willing to shell out the biggest salary. The Broncos paid Graham $365,200 last season, $285,012 of which was reported to be in school funds. UH paid Bob Nash approximately $240,000 and Irvine is advertising a salary range of $180,000 to $220,000 for its opening.
If UH's move to fire iconic Bob Nash after three seasons and a 34-56 record stirred some opposition, it should be revealing that Boise State had little compunction about making a move on Graham, who was 142-112 in eight seasons, has a $365,000 buyout and was but two seasons removed from a WAC title and NCAA appearance with six seniors scheduled to return.
It doesn't take much reading between the lines to see the Broncos, who already have the WAC's premier football program, are trying to upgrade in the income sports that would make them more attractive when conference reorganization comes. Mountain West, anyone?
The two biggest money making sports for conferences, hence the most valuable when mergers are discussed, are football and men's basketball. Football for BCS and bowl money, men's basketball for NCAA Tournament moolah, and both for TV rights.
So, gentlemen, start your coaching searches and, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on the other guy, too.