Hawaii Was Paradise for the Gauchos, Especially With a Season-Opening Win
Dec. 9, 2003
My personal excitement about traveling to Hawaii was very high due to the fact that it has been 15 years since I have been there. Wow, 15 years! I am getting old. I have been looking forward to this trip ever since I heard that we were scheduled to play here. I would not mind having them on the schedule every year. Well, the trip was a pretty smooth one. The flight over was good. I sat next to a nice Asian woman and we had a great conversation about our families. She was excited to learn things about our players and the process of recruiting. She had a very good feel for the UC system because she has 2 sons who graduated from UCLA and UCI. So, she knows that our guys must be pretty bright student-athletes.
As we arrived in Hawaii, the transition from Airport to Hotel was very smooth because Leroy Heu, our Athletic Trainer, is from Hawaii and knew exactly where we needed to go. Many of our players were excited to see the beauty of Hawaii. They really wanted to see the beauty of the Women in Hawaii. I know that their heads were spinning around looking. I am not sure if saw enough of what they were looking for. Some of them were really looking forward to getting "leid", as in receiving the flowers and a kiss from a native woman. The hotel was pretty nice. Some of the players/staff had spectacular views of Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Park and the pool area down below. I was not one of the fortunate ones.
The first night that we were there we had practice for about 1 1/2 hours. It was more of a practice where we wanted the players to get up and down the court to get over the jet lag of flying for approximately 6 hours. After practice we had a good team dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe where the food was good and the service was great. Our players noticed the Women's team from the University of Maine at the restaurant. Imagine their flight.
Early each morning our staff wakes up to find one of the local Starbuck's Coffee shops. For a person who does not like the smell or taste of coffee, I have gotten used to the visits. I generally order an orange herbal tea or caramel apple cider. We typically grab a couple of papers and discuss what's going on in the news or basketball around the country. Prior to practice today, we had a great breakfast at a place called 'Dukes' that was right on the beach. That's not much of a big deal for most people from Santa Barbara, but the beauty of the beaches and the clear colors of the water were amazing. Watching about 40 surfers out there waiting to catch a wave was pretty unique.
Later we headed to practice. Each practice begins with 'skill development'. The big guys were on one end and guards on the other end. Only having 5 perimeter players on the trip, with Nick Jones and Branduinn Fullove out, I motivated my old body to get into the drills. I did not take the opportunity to get a workout in earlier so I challenged my bad knees and my sore back. It did not help the fact that I was wearing running shoes. The drills were pretty basic. We did lots of shooting off of the dribble. As my aching body loosened up, I decided to get into some of the full court drills. Big mistake. I have regained the feeling of what the players go through and have a greater since of empathy for when we push them to work harder. I was sucking wind as we got up and down the court. I had to let a couple of guys cut in line just to the give this old guy a little extra break to catch my breath. Well after the full court drills and challenging my physical being, I then got into what we call "Dummy" offense, which is where our players run through each of our plays without any defense. I sit here now and wonder why we call it "Dummy", because as a coach looking at the players run through the various options, it is easy standing aside and barking instructions on where to cut, screen and pass. I have encouraged the other assistants to take at least one day to jump into "Dummy" offense. There were a couple of plays which we ran that made me feel like a "Dummy" with h the players tell me where to cut, screen and pass. But when I stepped aside and watched the guys continue the final couple of minutes of that segment, I was proud to know that I had executed each play and option correctly.
Later in practice is where things took a turn for the worse. Having only 11 players on the trip allowed our players to have just one person subbing for them. No, I was not getting back into those drills. As they began to fatigue, practice began to worsen. One of the great things that I admire about Coach Williams is how he will occasionally allow the players to work themselves through a bad practice and other times he will push them through it. Well, this one turned out to be one that he had to push them through.
After practice, our players and staff had a few hours to get out and experience the culture and lifestyle of Honolulu/Waikiki. Several of the players walked next door to the huge shopping mall. Others walked down to take a dip in ocean. Coach Amaral decided to go to another area of the beach and take a dip as well. I believe that Coach Williams and his mom and brother went to the International Market Place. Coach Campbell decided to hang back at the hotel. I wanted to get out and see the sights for myself, so I took a 2 hour stroll along the beach, grabbed myself a huge snow cone and watched some people play 2-on-2 volleyball. As I sat there, I continued to admire the beauty of the water, so I continued to walk, and then noticed a couple of people out in the water snorkeling. That was the one thing that I really wanted to do once revisiting Hawaii, but I did not make or take the time to do it. I did not realize that you could see fish in that area of the beach, so I missed out. As I strolled back from the beach, I saw an older gentleman near the loading dock with about 10 loaves of bread throwing about 8 pieces of bread in the water. From a distance I could see this big splash moving in the water. As I got closer, I noticed that there was a huge school of fish that were feeding on the bread. I have a fascination with fish and I must have stayed there for about 10 minutes.
As the evening got closer, Leroy Heu's family and friends had a barbecue set up for the team to eat right down the street from the hotel, at Ala Moana Park. The park was adjacent to the beach where numerous people were jogging and exercising. The first thing that I notice in the distance, were two people about knee high in the water doing some fishing. Well, my fascination got the best of me again, so I wandered out there, took off my sandals and walked out to find out more about fishing in Hawaii. I found out that you don't need a license to fish off of the shore. I also found out that the two gentlemen would go out to the same location each evening prior to sunset and try to catch some fish. One of the men would catch, tag and release the fish. He would also record the information about the fish. He would record the size, weight and type of fish. He actually caught a fish that he had already tagged before.
When the barbecue was over, some of the players who did not go to the shopping mall earlier, ventured there, while Coach Amaral and I took the other players to browse around the International Market Place, which is a basically flea market-type shopping area. Many of the places sold t-shirts 7 for $20, what a bargain! I decided to grab me a few for my family.
Game day breakfast was at the same restaurant, Dukes. It was another gorgeous day. We ran into a few people from Santa Barbara. There was a couple, friends of my wife, that was on vacation. There was also a young lady who was a recent UCSB graduate. After breakfast we had some time to kill before game day shoot-a-round, so we decided to take the guys who wanted to go, for a drive around the Island. We had 3 mini vans full of people. We had our own personal tour director in Steve Allaback, who is the UCSB's Faculty Athletics Representative. Steve has spent some time in Hawaii. He has a brother-in-law who lives there. We drove from Waikiki to a place called White Sands Beach, and then we passed by Hanama Bay. We wanted to stop there but the wind was blowing too hard, so they closed the beach area. Then we stopped at another beach where they have a blowhole. We all got out of the vans to watch the waves crash into the piles of rocks. It was one of the most spectaculars sights. From the view that we had up above, it seemed like that waves would hit the rocks and then shoot up 35 feet in the air. The waves continue one after another. After that Steve lead us around the entire Island. There were some pretty awesome sights. The mixture of water, mountains and dark green trees was a sight to remember.
Later we went to shoot-a-round to get used to the court that we were going to play on and to go over any last minute details of the game plan. We always have a half court shot to end shoot-a-round just to keep the guys light prior to going into competition each game. Later, we had about an hour and a half to relax prior to pre-game meal, which is always 4 hours before the game. Coach Campbell arranged for the team to eat a great pre-ordered meal at Tony Roma's. All of the players usually go back to the hotel and start getting their minds on the game and what they feel they need to do to be mentally prepared. As the game rolled around, I felt pretty calm. I was calm because I did not have a feel for what to expect from our guys. Well, our players were up and down, which is to be expected. The things that the staff was proud of was that we competed and did all of the little things that were necessary late in the game to pull off the win.
We got the guys up at 7:00 am and checked out of the hotel at 7:30 so we could visit Pearl Harbor and learn a little American history. There were some very impressive things about going to view one of the countries most historic places. Something that was very exciting for me personally was meeting and visiting with one of the Pearl Harbor attack survivors. The gentlemen's name was George and I spent about 15 minutes listening to him explain the equipment that was on the various ships and how much ammunition each of the weapons used. We then went into a small theatre where we saw an un-nerving video of why and how we were bombed. The sad thing about the video is learning that the U.S. had been warned that there were a great numbers of planes spotted on the radar and we dismissed it as some of our own planes.
The final thing that we experienced in Hawaii prior to jumping on the flight back to the mainland was eating at a Chinese restaurant called Chang's. We sat down and had an all you can eat' Chinese buffet. We enjoyed spending time sitting, eating and reminiscing about Hawaii and the game. Prior to departing Chang's, Coach Amaral got his digital camera out and had our players take a photo with a native Hawaiian beauty. This young lady was more than pleased to pose with the guys and I did not see any of the players dodging to get out of the photo. As we told the players that this young lady was a Police Officer there in Hawaii, many of them said that they would not mind committing a speeding violation and getting pulled over by her. As they know, 'crime does not pay' but being detained by that officer wouldn't be a problem.
We said goodbye to Hawaii. Five hours to Los Angeles and 45 more minutes to Santa Barbara. I was looking forward to getting back home to see my lovely wife and beautiful kids. I was also looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.
Assistant Basketball Coach