Hawaii associate Nash to replace Wallace

Updated: April 13, 2007, 10:22 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

HONOLULU -- Hawaii associate men's basketball coach Bob Nash, who has been a part of the program for nearly three decades, was selected as the Rainbow Warriors' head coach on Friday.

The 56-year-old Nash, a former NBA player, was chosen from a pool of 71 candidates.

"We conducted a national search, and our national search brought us back to one of our own," Hawaii athletics director Herman Frazier said.

Frazier said Nash's contract is a three-year deal. Terms were not disclosed.

Nash served as an assistant coach for the past 23 seasons and also was a graduate assistant for two seasons. He played on Hawaii's so-called "Fabulous Five" during the 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons.

In those years, the team compiled a 47-8 record, and made the postseason twice, including the school's first NCAA tournament. Nash averaged 16.8 points and 13.6 rebounds and still holds the school record for rebounds in a game (30) and single season (361).

Nash was selected by the Detroit Pistons as the seventh overall pick in the 1972 draft. He spent four years with the Pistons and Kansas City Kings and also spent a year with the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors.

Nash said his many years at Hawaii did not guarantee him the job.

Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier interviewed a few candidates on the mainland this past week, including Rice coach Willis Wilson and Portland Trail Blazers assistant Dean Demopoulos.

"I never felt there was any type of entitlement. I wanted to earn this position," he said. "I've worked my butt off to get here and I plan on working my butt off to stay here. This is where I want to be."

But the fan favorite from the outset has been Nash. Few coaches know how to recruit to the Island more than Nash. His son, Bobby Nash, will be a senior on the team next season. This would also mean that the top assistant and top recruiter, Jackson Wheeler, would also stay with the team.

He replaces longtime coach Riley Wallace, who is retiring after 20 years at Hawaii. His contract, which expires April 30, does not allow for an extension or renewal, effectively forcing him to retire.

Wallace is the school's winningest coach with 334 victories. The Rainbow Warriors finished this past season 18-13, missing the postseason for the third straight year.

"I appreciate him getting me to this point, but he's clipped the wings and I have to fly on my own and I'm very capable of doing that," Nash said.

Wearing a maile lei and silk Hawaiian shirt, Nash said he intends to run the team differently from Wallace, making the squad more of a transition team with an up-tempo offense with physical training year round.

"It's a fast-paced game. I want them to have fun with the game. I want to give them freedom to create a little bit more and not be so rigid in our offense," he said.

Nash's low-key demeanor is also in contrast to the outspoken Wallace, who was often seen barking at players while pacing along the sideline.

"I've always been my own my man in terms of the way I thought," Nash said. "I have bumped heads with Riley on the way I thought we should do things."

Nash said he's always wanted to be head coach and even applied for the post when Wallace was hired. But he was told by then-athletic director Stan Sheriff that he wasn't ready, so Nash waited patiently for two decades, honing his skills.

"I didn't know it was going to take 20 years to hone them, but I've been honing my skills," he said.

He's had other opportunities, but wanted to stay in Hawaii. His son, Bobby Nash, is a starting forward on the team.

First on his list of duties: "Kiss my wife," he said.

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.