Arnold gets 'dream' job
• Photo gallery: Arnold Gib
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Friends of Gib Arnold from his Punahou School days can recall early mornings at Zippy's that indicated his future might be as a basketball coach.
It took a while — 23 years — but next stop, University of Hawai'i.
Arnold was named head coach of the UH men's basketball team yesterday, ending a 12-day search to find the replacement for Bob Nash, who was terminated on March 8.
Arnold said he has agreed to a three-year contract that will pay him around $240,000 per year — the same as Nash was making.
"We would sit at Zippy's after our games till 3 in the morning," said Nate Smith, Arnold's teammate at Punahou in 1987. "And the reason why we would be there so long was because Gib wanted to analyze every single play from the game."
Hawai'i athletic director Jim Donovan is hoping that type of tenacity and dedication will turn a program that experienced three consecutive losing seasons under Nash.
"The process was very thorough," Donovan said of the coaching search.
Arnold and Saint Mary's associate head coach Kyle Smith were believed to be the finalists out of the approximately 50 applicants for the position.
Arnold and Smith were among seven candidates to receive interviews with Donovan and his advisory committee.
Donovan said the two finalists received second interviews on Friday — "sort of like overtime," he said. By Friday night, Arnold was offered the job.
"Gib did the best," Donovan said.
It will be Arnold's first shot as head coach of an NCAA Division I program after a circuitous route of assistant coaching stints.
Most recently, he was an assistant coach at USC for the past five seasons. Arnold was on the staff when USC won the inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center last December.
However, Arnold was released from that position this month by USC head coach Kevin O'Neill, who reportedly said he wanted to move in a different direction.
USC is currently under NCAA investigation for recruiting violations, but Donovan said Arnold has been cleared of any involvement.
"We made several calls," Donovan said. "The NCAA is allowing me to say that he was not involved in the investigation."
Donovan said the coaching search moved swiftly to allow the new coach a chance to recruit players to Hawai'i before the start of the national signing period on April 15.
Arnold gained a reputation as an elite recruiter while he was an assistant coach, and said he was in the process of recruiting several players to USC when he was released.
"There are a couple of players I initially met while recruiting to USC that I'll try to talk to," he said.
Arnold will have at least four scholarships to fill during his first season at Hawai'i. That number could grow if some of the current 'Bows opt not to return, or are not retained by Arnold.
However, Arnold noted that he will fill his open scholarships only with quality recruits.
"If we don't find those guys in the next 25 days, we're going to hold those scholarships," he said.
Prior to his stint at USC, Arnold was a junior college head coach at College of Southern Idaho. Before that, he was an assistant at Pepperdine, Vanderbilt, Loyola Marymount and Utah Valley State.
Throughout that coaching journey, Hawai'i remained one of his dream destinations.
Arnold said he even has a journal entry that he wrote some 20 years ago while he was still in college that lists Hawai'i as one of the places he wanted to work.
"It's not every day that a dream can come true, and for me and my family this is truly one of these days," Arnold said yesterday during his introductory press conference at the Stan Sheriff Center's Ed Wong Hospitality Room.
His hiring also gives his family a chance at a next generation do-over.
Frank Arnold, Gib's father, was the Hawai'i head coach during the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons. It was a forgettable run, with the 'Bows posting an 11-45 record during that time.
"I love my father. I'm proud of who he is. I'm proud to be his son," Arnold said. "He's a great man, a great father, a great coach ... but the Arnold name here — to the basketball people here in Hawai'i — was a tough time and a tough era.
"As a son, I get the opportunity to change that ... to build a program that the people of Hawai'i can be proud of."
Arnold said he called his father on Friday night to inform him of the news.
"He said I'm proud of you, and then he broke down and started crying," Arnold said. "It was pretty emotional."
Unlike his father, Arnold can bring several longstanding Hawai'i ties to the position.
When Frank Arnold was the head coach of the 'Bows, Gib was a standout point guard at Punahou. During his senior season, he was a first-team Advertiser All-State selection, and won the Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Many of Arnold's current best friends were formed during those years, including Smith.
"It's not easy to come into Hawai'i as a Mainland kid, especially one from BYU (where Frank was a coach)," Smith said. "But Gib always had this knack for jumping into the culture and getting along with everybody. I think that's what makes him a great recruiter. He has that 'it' factor."
In the past 23 years, Arnold made several return visits to Hawai'i, and often talked to his friends about the UH basketball team.
"It was always in the back of his mind," Smith said. "He was always supportive of the program, but you could tell he wanted a chance to coach here."
Arnold apparently didn't even bother negotiating for a bigger paycheck.
"I didn't bargain one bit," he said.
Now, Arnold has a chance to rebuild a program that finished 10-20 last season, including a last-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference.
Because of his numerous coaching stops, Arnold said he can bring a variety of schemes to the 'Bows. He said he would like to implement an offense of "NBA-style sets."
"I believe you can be successful with that at any level," he said.
One of his first priorities will be to hire a coaching staff. He said he plans to talk to each member of the Hawai'i staff under Nash — associate coach Jackson Wheeler, and assistant coaches Larry Farmer and Eran Ganot. But he added that he is "starting to make calls" to other potential assistants from around the country.
He acknowledged that he has been in contact with former UH player Jarinn Akana, and his brother Brandyn, who is currently an assistant coach at BYU-Hawai'i.
Arnold, who is married with five children, said he "probably won't be settled (in Hawai'i) for months" while making the transition from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
Arnold is a member of the Mormon church, but said he does not foresee any problems with playing games on Sundays (Mormon schools such as BYU do not schedule games on Sundays).
"Preferably, if it doesn't conflict, I like Sundays with my family," he said. "But if it conflicts with a game, then I'm going to be there. This is my job."