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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 19, 2010

Full-court press on for UH candidates

By Ferd Lewis

Apparently, it isn't just election-year politicians who are adept at flushing out endorsements and waging media blitzes these days.

The University of Hawai'i's search for a new men's basketball coach reminds us that coaches, too, know how to scare up a testimonial or two and marshal forces when there is a hotly contested job on the line.

Take, for example, Saint Mary's associate head coach Kyle Smith, who got a gold-plated endorsement from the Gaels' opening-round NCAA Tournament opponent, Richmond head coach Chris Mooney.

In a press conference leading up to yesterday's NCAA South Regional game, Mooney touted Smith, whom he once coached with at the Air Force Academy, as "the smartest man in college basketball. I think he has the best feel and overview of basketball programs and coaching of anyone I've ever met."

Then, the Gaels went out and made it seem all the more prophetic with an 80-71 upset of the Spiders yesterday.

Smith also has received endorsements from Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, a former UH assistant, and Virginia coach Tony Bennett, among others.

Smith is not alone. Former USC assistant Gib Arnold has gotten them double-barrel from ESPN's Doug Gottlieb and Jay Williams, among others.

Under his "Real Jay Williams" signature, Williams tweeted, "The Hawaii Head Coaching job is open and I think Gib Arnold (assistant coach of #USC) is the perfect fit."

UH athletic director Jim Donovan said Smith and Arnold along with other candidates have received extensive recommendations and endorsements. "Everybody wants to help pick our next coach. That's why my (cell) phone keeps filling up," Donovan said.

What's next for the candidates heading into week two of the campaign, sign waving on University Avenue?

For several days a rumor sweeping town is that Arnold's Punahou School alumni hui has been out to secure an endorsement from that most famous of Buffanblu alums and basketball players, President Obama.

Donovan was asked if an endorsement from the First Fan would sway his eventual decision.

"Who knows?" Donovan said. "But I'd certainly have a great story to tell at the (athletic director's) convention."