Its Down To the Short Strokes

February 23rd, 2015

With only three games remaining in the regular season, UH is tied for 6th place with a chance to move down to 7th or up to as high as third. Seeding does make a difference. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Right now, I wouldn't want to play Irvine or Santa Barbara. I would take my chances with Davis or Long Beach.

The Bows lost the two road games> Not unexpected. The Irvine loss wasn't pretty. Defensive lapses and poor decision making once again affected the result. The Davis loss, on the other hand, demonstrated that UH may match up against the league leaders better than anyone. A 7 point loss while missing three frontline players is a credit to the team's effort. What is a little disconcerting is the inability to stop Davis' late run, something we have seen time and time again in the team's losses.

The Bows again play two teams ahead of them in the standings, this time at home. They will face Long Beach on Thursday ( only one game this week), and then Santa Barbara at home and Fullerton on the road. The Gauchos will have Alan Williams for the Senior night game. Hawaii has only one win against the top 5 teams in the Conference, but if they are full strength they can beat an inconsistent Long Beach team. Santa Barbara with Williams will be tougher and Fullerton, even on the road, should be a win.

I am predicting Hawaii will end up in 5th place with a 8-8 record. Interestingly, that is where they were picked to finish before the season started when Isaac was still on the team( some had them as high as 4th). Hard to believe the season is almost over. Its been a season of highs and lows. There have been the big wins against Davis and Pittsburgh, along with a great effort against Wichita State, and some bad losses, like High Point and Riverside. But all in all, the on court play has been exciting and fan-friendly. Strengths include excellent pressure defense, a solid transition game off of turnovers, and  a record number of steals. Negatives include inconsistent outside shooting, inability to hold leads late in games, and a lack of execution in the half court.

Only one team from the Big West will make it to the two major tournaments> Davis is guaranteed the League Championship and a spot in the NIT. Whoever wins the Tournament will be a 15 seed in the Big Dance. Surprises to me are Davis and Riverside on the plus side, and Long Beach and Santa Barbara on the downside ( but I think Santa Barbara has a real chance to win the Tournament). As far as Hawaii goes, I think they will win 20 games. Not too many people predicted that back in November. Yes, there have been some off court issues, and way too many technical fouls,, and yes, I think they have failed to play with discipline on occasion, but with all the off-court distractions facing this program, and the loss of their best player before the season started, its been a successful year by anyone's criteria.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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A Critical Week

February 17th, 2015

After two home wins against Riverside and Fullerton, two of the weaker teams in the Conference, UH now goes on the road to two of the better teams. In fact, maybe the best two teams in Irvine and Davis. Davis has lost only once in the league and that was here against the Bows, but probably has the number 1 seed locked up absent a total collapse these last three weeks. Irvine, who has already beaten UH here, has struggled a little bit recently, but still stands in second place.

Hawaii has beaten up on the bottom half of the league, with 5 of its 6 wins coming against the lower half. On the other hand, UH, except for the Davis win, has lost  all of the games against the teams ahead of them. Looks a little like last year.

I think first and last are pretty well known. As I said, Davis looks to have the number 1 seed. Fullerton and CSUN will fight for the last spot in the Tournament. But spots 2 thru 7 are still in play. Hawaii, at 6-5, is in 5th place, but with two road wins this week could put them into a position to possibly come in 3rd or even 2nd. On the other hand, two losses and the Bows could be looking at a 6th place finish.

We all know about the ankle injuries suffered by Thomas, Valdes, and Fleming last week. I haven't heard the latest, but my guess is that Aaron will play, not sure about Thomas, and I doubt Fleming will suit up. Beating Irvine and Davis at full strength is a challenge. Without one or more of these guys, it will be tough.

Hawaii now has 18 wins. Give them credit. When you think back to November, not sure many folks thought they could win 20. There are still some things that are troublesome, however. Technical fouls for one. Hawaii is gaining a reputation among officials for complaining just a little too much. It hasn't cost them a game just yet, but it could down the stretch. The Bows also continue to struggle in the half court, but on nights when Webster-Chan or someone else hit their outside shots, this team is very competitive. Hawaii's defensive pressure will keep them in most games, but they need to learn how to play at a more deliberate tempo down the stretch when the game is on the line. Maintaining large leads last week is a positive sign

Seeding in the Tournament is important. Right now, Hawaii would play Santa Barbara. That is a bad match up for UH , and if Alan Williams is healthy, nobody wants to play the Gauchos. But there are 5 games left, two next week at home against Long Breach and Santa Barbara. In fact 4 of Hawaii's last 5 games are against the teams ahead of them in the standings. The Bows have their future in their hand. Win and the seeding will be favorable. Stumble, and it could be a short stint in Anaheim


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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An Ode to Coach Smith

February 9th, 2015

The college basketball world has lost one of its most important persons in the passing of Coach Dean Smith. I was honored to have known him and to call him a friend.

How you as?. back in the late 70's and early 80's, in the heyday of the Rainbow Classic, I had the privilege of hosting the Tarheels twice, including one year with Michael Jordan. Some coaches " tolerate" their hosts, a few embrace them. Coach Smith was the later. From allowing me to watch full practices, otherwise closed to the public, to inviting me to the locker room pregame, at halftime, and after games, he made sure I became part of the team.

You may remember that UNC, under Coach Smith, opened the Stan Sherriff Arena for basketball. When the media here learned that UNC was coming they all requested interviews. UNC arrived here after a trip to Japan. I had a weekly radio show back then, and was told by the main media in town that UNC had notified them that Coach Smith would not give any interviews until after the game. Despite that, they all showed up to meet the team bus., as did I. When Coach Smith stepped down from the bus, the local media began asking for interviews. Coach Smith saw me, and told everybody there would only be one pregame interview. Guess with who?

Some year later, Coach Smith was voted the Sports illustrated Person of the Year. As a subscriber, I received my issue and wrote to the basketball office to see if Coach would sign it. They told me that they had received thousands of similar requests and could not guarantee anything. Well I sent it anyway never expecting any response. Some months later, it was returned with a personal message and a signature. Its framed and hangs right by my desk.

There are some folks you meet in life who you never forget. Coach Smith is one of those. As important and famous as he was, he treated me like I meant something to him and UNC basketball Another small example. On that trip back from the Tournament in Japan, he made sure I received the same swag the team received in Japan.

I have stayed in touch with many of his assistants. I count Roy Williams and Eddie Fogler as friends today. In fact, Eddie will be on Hoopstalk weds on ESPN 1420 at 7 pm and I hope Roy can also come on soon.

As much as Coach Smith was a brilliant Coach, he stood for much more. He was a strong voice for racial equality in the 1960's South and recruited Charlie Scott as the first black scholarship athlete to play at UNC. He fought to integrate his high school basketball team in Kansas in the late 1940's and spoke out against the death penalty in North Carolina. His basketball yearbooks at UNC didn't just list all the team records, but had several pages listing each player, the year they graduated, and their professions. 96%  of his players graduated and the yearbooks were filed with doctors and lawyers, along with scores of professional basketball players.

There will never be another Dean Smith. I am so lucky to have known him. There are other great coaches, but few, if any, can match his record, on and off the Court. Rest in Peace

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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A road win and a little more controversy

January 30th, 2015

First, congrats to the team on a convincing road win they had to have. Northridge is a bottom feeder and you have to beat those teams, whether at home or on the road. A strong shooting was nite was nice to see, but the waters get deeper tomorrow as the Bows take on Long Beach. The Beach have talent but are up and down. Take last night. They needed OT to beat the worst team in the league, Fullerton. They will be much better at home, and it will take a complete effort by UH to grab a much needed win.

Some what over shadowed by the on court play, is the latest incident you all have read about. Smoking marijuana in a non-smoking hotel room may or may not be a violation of law, but no-one can deny its pretty stupid. Now folks can debate whether smoking a joint is " right or wrong", and certainly not unexpected these days. But do it in the parking lot.

The incident has cost UH at least 500 dollars in cleaning fees, but perhaps more importantly, there does not appear to have been any repercussions. Public statements by UH have been inconsistent and appear to have minimized what is clearly a significant rules violation. If there has been any discipline imposed, no one outside of UH knows about it.

Did this incident require a suspension? That can be debated. And I am interested in your opinions on this. But you have to wonder about what these guys were thinking. Did they think they wouldn't get caught. Smoke in a nonsmoking room, whatever you smoke, and you will get caught and you will have to pay a cleaning fee. Smoke marijuana and you are more than doubling the problem. In my opinion,  UH should have taken a stronger stance with these players. Hopefully the lessons are learned and the lack of action wont lead to more issues.


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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a disappointing start

January 25th, 2015

the Rainbow Warriors have finished the first five league games with a disappointing 2-3 record. Losing two home games and a road loss to an average Riverside team is not the way anybody thought the Bows would open the league season. Frankly, these  first five games appeared to be the most favorable part of the league schedule and some were predicting a 5-0 start ( not me, although anything less than a 3-2 start was inconceivable).

What did the Bows in. Simple. Poor shooting. This team struggles in the half court. Its offense is primarily based on the defense creating turnovers leading to transition baskets. When it works like it did against Davis, Hawaii is tough to beat. When it doesn't, a loss is probable.

Take last night. Hawaii gets 16 plus turnovers and outrebounds Irvine, dominating the offense boards .But all that is overcome by 35% shooting with multiple missed layups and put backs. Poor shooting  led to the Cal Poly and Riverside defeats. Add some questionable decisions by Fleming in critical situations, and you have the recipe for defeat.

Are there positives. Of course. Nevels, despite some poor shooting nights, continues to demonstrate senior leadership. Valdez is the energizer bunny all over the court ( although some inconsistent offensive play is troublesome). and Bobbitt's ability to create steals and turnovers makes Hawaii's defense one of the best in the Conference. Jankovic is improving, and Webster-Chan has shown he can hit the three.

The problem now is that Hawaii goes on the road to play four games, including games against Long Beach and Santa Barbara and a return game against Cal Poly. Hawaii is already behind the eight ball with three losses as three teams have only one loss. If the Bows have any chance of competing for the league championship, they have to win at least two and probably three of these games, no easy chance.

Despite the poor start, the team continues to play hard. Their style has energized the fan base as last nights crowd of over 7500 proved. They don't quit, coming from 12 down late last night to get within one. On nights they shoot well, they will have the chance to beat any team in the league because their defense is consistently solid. They do need to make better decisions in late game situations, and some will excuse that arguing the team is " young". Maybe that was valid in December, but we are almost half way into the league schedule and Freshman have to begin to play like upperclassmen

Coach Taylor continues to say he and team are looking to improve each game leading up to the Conference Tournament. Its the usual coaches mantra and it makes sense. But seeding in also very important. You don't want to have to play the three best teams in the regular season to win the Tournament. Its not too early to begin to consider if Hawaii has what it takes to finish in the top half. Its hard to predict that right now. You have, on one hand, the convincing win against Davis and a solid effort against Irvine. Then you have the Cal Poly and Riverside losses. What Hawaii does on this road trip will give us a clearer picture of exactly where Hawaii stands.




Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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back in town

January 23rd, 2015

sorry for no posts the last two weeks, but I have been out of town ( Cuba).

While I was gone, the team posted a 1-2 record to open conference play. Frankly, a poor start. The home overtime loss to Cal Poly and the road loss to Riverside exposed some weaknesses that we have been talking about all year. A struggle to score in the half court and some undisciplined play down the stretch ( poor shot selection, bad clock management, etc).

But last night, the Rainbow Warriors played inspired basketball in a must win game against UC Davis. When UH combines its excellent pressure defense with a 50% field goal percentage, they will be very hard to beat. In my opinion, the team played its best 25 minutes of basketball last night in a game they had to win to remain competitive in the league. 18 steals led to 36 points off of turnovers, and UH exposed Davis' lack of athleticism in a dominating performance. Add 10 made threes to the mix, and it makes for an outstanding effort.

Was it perfect. No. Hawaii was badly outrebounded by a mediocre rebounding team, and a 26 point lead with under 8 minutes to play ended in an 8 point victory. Once again, Hawaii made some poor decisions down the stretch, but this time, their lead was so large it didn't really hurt. But some of the freshman need to grow up quickly before those mistakes cost the team a win or two.

Now Irvine comes to town. They were the preseason favorites to win the league, but until recently they have struggled a little bit. But they have played some tough road games, a three point loss at St. Mary's and a 2 point loss at Oregon, and they opened league play with a 3-1 record. They still have some injury issues, and it is not clear whether  7'6" Center Mamadou Ndiaye will play. I doubt he will. Without him, Irvine still has some solid players like Luke Nelson and Will Davis, but the Anteaters need the big man in the paint to thwart Hawaii's penetration . Without him, Hawaii's guards should be able to get to the hoop.. Irvine does come off a thirty plus point destruction of Northridge on the road last night.

Hawaii needs this game tomorrow. The " easy part" of UH's schedule was the first five games. Some thought they would go 5-0. A 2-3 record with two home losses will make it very difficult to compete for the top two or three spots. After tomorrow, UH goes on the road for four games, and against some of the stronger teams in the league( Long Beach and Santa Barbara and a rematch with Cal Poly). So its not too early to say tomorrow is a must win game. If they play like they did last night, they will win. If they play like they did against Cal Poly and Riverside, it wont be close.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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December 29th, 2014

With two wins tonight and tomorrow, the basketball Bows will enter Big West play with a record of 12-4. Ok, lets be honest, how many folks predicted that? Not me, although I was off by only the Pitt game.

The surprising early season run as been fun to watch and a tribute to a never say die coaching staff and team. It proves the old basketball adage that if you play good defense, you will be in almost every game. And when the Bows make threes ( like they did in the second half against Wichita State and against Colorado), they will be in every game.

Hawaii always plays well in the Holiday tournament going back to Rainbow Classic times, and this year was no exemption. The wins against Nebraska and Colorado, and the loss against Wichita ( a game Hawaii deserved to win), is just another example. Frankly, I don't think either Nebraska or Colorado will be any better than middle of the road in their respective conferences, and Wichita will go only as far as their outside shooting will take them, but these games helped Hawaii's RPI and certainly will help recruiting being on national TV.

The games this week should be relatively easy wins. You never know however, coming against weaker competition after the excitement and the challenges of the Diamond Head. But the Hawaii backcourt with Bobbitt, Fleming and Nevels ( assuming his injured hand does not keep him out,) along with the strong play of Valdes and the emergence of Jankovic,  makes me pretty confident that even an average outing should not create any real issues .

How good is this team? We will see shortly once league play begins next week .Hawaii gets 4 of the first 5 games at home, and the road game is at Riverside. But I don't think anyone can say that this team has not exceeded expectations so far. Its not just the wins. Its the style of play that has fans buzzing. They create turnovers, make steals, and play hard on both ends of the floor. Do they have any flaws. Of course, They sometimes struggle in the half court, don't shoot well from the outside consistently, and lack depth, especially in the frontcourt.  They sometimes lose focus, but that can be corrected. All in all, they have been a very pleasant surprise.


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Time To Get Serious

December 20th, 2014

The easy part of UH's pre-conference schedule ended with a summer league type win over a badly outmatched Chaminade team last night. The game was over at the half as UH dominated on both ends of the court. Uh had 50 plus points in the paint which more than compensated for very poor three point shooting and 21 turnovers. I guess as a " tune -up game after a two week layover it was worthwhile, but from an competitive viewpoint it was solely lacking.

But the games against schools no- one has heard of and Division 2 teams is over. Starting Monday, the Diamond Head Classic will feature one really good teams and a bunch of mid level teams from Conferences we all know. Its not a very strong field, but other than Wichita State, its a competitive one.

Hawaii will open against Nebraska. At the beginning of the season, folks thought Nebraska could be a top 25 team. Unfortunately, they haven't played like one. They do have two preseason All Big 10 players in Terran Pettaway and Shavon Shields, along with wins against Cincinnati and Florida State, but they have lost to Rhode Island,  Creighton ( a rivalry game) and Incarnata Word ( WHO?). Its a game I think Hawaii can and will win.

But the winner of that game gets the opportunity to lose to Wichita State. No the Shockers are not playing as well as they did the last two seasons, but they come in here with only an overtime road loss to a solid Utah team. They all two of the best guards in the Country in Baker and Van Fleet. Bobbitt  and the rest of the Bow guards will have a significant challenge on their hands. Wichita State will open with the weakest team in the field Loyola Marymount, and if Hawaii should lose to Nebraska, they will have little trouble with LMU in the Consolation Round.

The other half of the bracket is wide open. Perhaps Colorado is the favorite. The Buffalos come in6-3 with wins over Auburn and San Francisco, but they have lost to Wyoming and Georgia. Other teams in the day bracket are Ohio University ( 3-4), DePaul ( 6-4) and George Washington ( 6-3).  Clearly the Shockers are the overwhelming favorite.

I think Hawaii will win 2 games in the Tournament. That would give them a 10-3 record. They have the signature win against Pitt, but the others have come against weak teams. The loss at BYU was not a surprise, and actually, the Bows played well for 30 minutes. The one that got away was the High Point loss. Hopefully Hawaii will be at full strength for the Tournament. Three games in four days is not easy. But Hawaii always plays well in this Tournament and the other teams have traveled a long way. Add all the distractions the State has to offer, and it adds up to a significant advantage for UH.

If you are any kind of a basketball fan, make your way to the arena. This team is fun to watch and can compete with every team in the field ( Yes, the Shockers will be a big favorite if the Bows win Monday). But the games should all be competitive and the team and the Tournament deserve fan support


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Lace It Up

December 17th, 2014

After what seems like an eternity since UH played a home basketball game( at least a game on Oahu), the basketball  Bows hit the hardwood for a Friday night " away game" against " little brother, Chaminade at the Blaisdell.

Some say a two week hiatus is good. Time to rest, regroup, put in new plays, etc. Others say its too long. Lose of fan interest, loss of positive momentum, etc. Whatever, its just nice to get back to playing.

Friday night's game is a no-win game for UH. Win, and every expects you too. Lose, and you have a lot of explaining to do. I watched Chaminade on Maui. They didn't appear to me as strong as previous teams I saw there. Uh has already beaten HPU, another Hawaii Division 2 squad, and frankly, I don't think Chaminade should give UH much of a game. But who knows? What I do know is that for UH to play two Div 2 teams in a single season is not acceptable. I don't want to hear about how difficult it is to bring in Div 1 opponents. One div 2 game a season is enough, maybe too much. The Bows strength of schedule is weak enough without Two Div 2 teams.

For the basketball fan however, there is good news ahead, at least next week.  The Diamond Head Classic will bring in 7 teams to play 12 games in three days. One of those teams, Wichita State, is the real deal. A top 10 team with solid players and a great backcourt.  Yes, they have struggled recently, losing at Utah, and beating Alabama by only 1 last nite at home, but they are clearly the best team Hawaii fans will see all year.

Hawaii opens against Nebraska. Four weeks ago, I would have said ESPN did UH no favors with that opening opponent. But Nebraska is not playing well, and UH has a real chance to win. Only possible problem.  A win and UH will face Wichita State in round 2. Lose and they will face a poor Loyola Marymount squad. The other bracket has DePaul, Colorado, Ohio University, and George Washington. What a concept. Teams folks have heard of.

The only new personnel news is that Hamlet, sorry I meant to Reyes, has left the building. " I am going. I am staying, I am going, I am staying, I am going, " is going. I don't think its  major loss. On the positive side, we will see the UH debut of Stefan Jankovic, the 6-11 transfer from Missouri. He played in 28 games for the Tigers, averaging 3.1 points and 1.6 rebounds. He should give UH some frontcourt depth which they have lacking, and some height in the paint.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to post a response to my blog about the financial future of UH sports. Its a tough issue, and will require some " out of the box" thinking. Happy Chanukah

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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interesting times

December 10th, 2014

With a brief lull in UH basketball ( no games until a week from Friday), and the recent developments arising out of the AD's resignation,, I thought I would use today's blog to solicit your comments on what needs to be done to make UH athletics competitive and cost effective.

I think everyone now should realize that UH cannot continue to allow its athletic program to operate in the red. Yearly deficits are not going to be acceptable any longer. The University has too many other needs that require the limited funds available thru tuition, tax dollars and the like.

To me, the single most important question to ask is whether UH sports are really for the University or are they really for the State as a whole. As the only public university in Hawaii, I believe it is the latter. Frankly, I believe that if you polled the students and the faculty as to whether they care if the University maintains a football program, the answer will be No. You can see evidence of that in student attendance and the debate over the modest 50 student fee.

So if I am correct that the athletic programs, primarily football, are for the benefit and enjoyment of the State, then shouldn't the taxpayers, thru their elected representatives on Punchbowl, subsidize it. We do not have the economic resources in the private sector to make up the 8 to 10 million it will take to make up the budget shortfalls. We don't have the Fortune 500 companies that can make million dollar contributions and the last time I looked, there was no Phil Knight out there as well. We simply cannot raise the necessary funds from corporations, etc.

And things are going to get worse. Changes in the way the NCAA and the big five conferences are going to fund student athletics, including increased stipends, meals, medical benefits, etc will increase the costs of UH athletics by several million dollars over the next few years. We are in a football and basketball conference with poor tv contracts, and we have the substantial problem of paying travel costs that no other University faces.

So lets face reality. the present model is badly broken. The question is can it be fixed? or are we at a crossroads for UH Division 1 athletics? Its time for the public to recognize the the Emperor has no clothes. What do you think?


Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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