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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A glib Arnold impressed committee


By Ferd Lewis

It almost sounds like something out of a cloak-and-dagger spy thriller.

Candidates for the vacant University of Hawai'i men's basketball coaching job are given an assigned time to appear in front of the Sheraton Waikīkī Hotel and then met by an escort who whisks them to an executive office where the interviews take place amid pledges of tight-lipped secrecy.

It is not known if secret passwords or pieces of horizontally cut playing cards are exchanged.

Yet for all the closed-door intrigue that has hung over the search in the past four days, the growing perception is that former Southern California assistant coach Gib Arnold has emerged as the clubhouse leader heading into today's interviews in Los Angeles.

Word is that Arnold "nailed" the interview with athletic director Jim Donovan and the advisory committee Monday and had to follow a solid performance by Saint Mary's associate head coach Kyle Smith two days earlier.

Arnold returned to California yesterday and Donovan declined to comment. In keeping with the hush-hush overtones of this whole process, Donovan even refused to confirm his whereabouts yesterday. (Psst! It is Southern California).

That is where the most experienced candidates at least two of whom, Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti and Southern Mississippi associate head coach Steve Barnes, have Division I head coaching experience get their shots.

If form holds, they and whomever else might be called in will each have 90 minutes to answer questions, perhaps ask a few, and market themselves to Donovan and his committee.

The remarkable thing is that Arnold, a former Punahou School guard, appears to be dribbling with a lead at this point. Especially since nobody on the list has had more to surmount or explain going in.

Arnold is the only one of the so-far unmasked field without a job, having been let go in the change-over at USC last week. He's also the only candidate whose school has been called on the carpet by the NCAA in recent months.

And, as he has been reminded, he is the only one who has had to detail how he would be different than his father. Frank Arnold was 11-45 as UH's coach (1985-87) immediately preceding Riley Wallace.

Any one of those issues could have sunk Arnold's candidacy soon after his resume hit the in-basket.

The committee should have had plenty of pointed questions waiting for him Monday. So much so that it was a wonder he had time to pose any of his own. Of course, sometimes if you're a heavy underdog, just dispelling notions can help, too.

Which suggests that it must have been a thorough and polished performance that Arnold delivered.