HONOLULU -- Former Southern California assistant Gib Arnold was introduced Saturday as Hawaii's new men's basketball coach.
"It's not every day a dream can come true ... I am thrilled, excited, humbled and grateful for the opportunity," said Arnold, wearing a green Hawaiian shirt and leis.
Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan announced the selection of Arnold. He succeeds Bob Nash, who was fired after going 34-56 in three seasons with the Rainbow Warriors, including 10-20 in 2009-10.
"[I wanted someone] who was hungry, had extensive recruiting experience and a plan specific for UH," Donovan said. "Also someone with a clear vision for the future of our basketball program and could fit into Hawaii's unique culture. That's why Gib is here with us today."
Donovan said seven finalists were interviewed among 50 applicants. The other favorite was believed to be Saint Mary's associate head coach Kyle Smith.
"I'm well aware of what this team and university means to Hawaii," said Arnold, who served as an assistant at USC for the past five seasons before being fired this month by coach Kevin O'Neill.
Arnold helped recruit such former USC standouts DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson, both first-round selections in the NBA draft. He also was head coach at Southern Idaho from 2003-05 and held assistant positions at Pepperdine, Vanderbilt, Loyola Marymount and Utah Valley State.
The 40-year-old Arnold played prep ball in Honolulu and is the son of former Hawaii coach Frank Arnold. The elder Arnold went 11-45 from 1985-87.
Arnold said the job has "special meaning," because he's following in his father's footsteps. He is the program's 19th coach. His father was the 16th, preceding longtime coach Riley Wallace.
He acknowledged, however, his father's time was "a tough era."
"As a son, I've got the opportunity to change that [and] build a program that the people of Hawaii can be proud of," he said.
Arnold told his father about the job last night.
"He cried. He was very excited and proud," he said.
Center Bill Amis watched the news conference and said he was excited to play for Arnold.
Arnold has huge challenges ahead of him. Hawaii's isolation in the middle of the Pacific has always made recruiting difficult, the school is facing major budget problems and there's only one returning starter. The team also finished last in the Western Athletic Conference and attendance has fallen dramatically here, where football has long been king.
He said plans to capture all the top talent in Hawaii and build recruiting pipelines to the islands from the target markets on the mainland.
"When you call [recruits], they're going to listen just because it is Hawaii," he said. "You need to understand which ones are doing it for the beach and bikinis and which ones are doing it for the basketball."
Arnold said he wants to build something special, but fans will need to have some patience because "there's going to be some growing pains." But he's eager to get started and plans to hire his assistants soon and get started on recruiting.
Arnold starred for two seasons at nearby Punahou School, where President Barack Obama played several years earlier, and was on the 1979 state championship team.
When asked who was the most famous basketball player to come out of Punahou, Arnold said, "I would say Barack's got me on that. But I think I did average more than him."