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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Short-term better deal for new coaches


By Ferd Lewis

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Gib Arnold

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You could write a book or, even a column about all the things the University of Hawai'i should have learned about coaches' contracts over the years and can now apply to the one Gib Arnold will sign.

About how, for instance, it is better to give first-time coaches, especially those debuting as Division I heads, shorter rather than longer-term deals.

How it is wiser to commit to less up-front money and pack more of it into realistic incentives so that when the program does well, so does the coach. And, conversely, when it doesn't, UH is on the hook for less.

And about how it would be prudent to set mileposts, the kind that give UH options and avoid messy six- and seven-figure buyouts if progress isn't being made.

We bring these up because, we are told, UH has yet to finalize a contract for Arnold, its new men's basketball coach.

Upon accepting the job, Arnold signed what UH refers to as a "major terms agreement." Arnold said Monday the contract has yet to be finalized and, apart from confirming it would be for three years at $240,000 annually, he said he will withhold comment "until it is finalized."

UH officials have said they do not know when it will be executed, but you might not want to hold your breath. Women's basketball coach Dana Takahara-Dias was hired in May and at last word, nearly 10 months later, her deal still wasn't "executed," according to a UH spokesman.

So it appears that UH has an opportunity to get creative with this contract and step beyond the usual one-fits-all template that, clearly, hasn't. It can, in the current tough economic climate, tailor terms to the financial realities it faces.

Athletic director Jim Donovan declined to discuss the potential terms in play but said, "we're continually revising our contracts, not only to reflect the interest of the university but to be fair to the individual."

If so, UH is moving in the right direction. Now what remains to be seen is just how much.

It was interesting that a confidant of Bob Nash claimed the coach told UH that if it would let him finish out the last year of his amended four-year agreement he would pledge to resign late in the season if the 'Bows didn't hit an agreed-upon victory threshold.

We doubt that Arnold has made any similar offers about the latter years of his pending deal, but, hey, if you are UH it is something to think about.

At the least, here is an opportunity for UH to put into fine print the accumulated knowledge it has spent years and no small fortune acquiring the hard way.