Associated Press

Former Hawai’i coach to receive $700K in settlement

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Just prior to the start of the 2014-15 season Hawai’i parted ways with head coach Gib Arnold, with an NCAA investigation into major rules violations sparking the decision. Arnold took the school to court for the remaining money on his contract, and on Thursday the school announced that the legal battle has reached its conclusion.

The University of Hawai’i Board of Regents approved a $700,000 settlement, with Arnold receiving $500,000 and his attorney $200,000. The first payment will be made November 30, with the attorney receiving his full payment and Arnold getting $100,000.

Arnold’s portion of the settlement will be completed with payments of $200,000 on January 15, 2016 and January 15, 2017.

“It’s time for the university to move past this chapter in the history of UH men’s basketball,” UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman said in a release. “It is the best thing for UH and it is the best thing for the program. Now we can turn our full focus to the future and the players and coaches, as they prepare for the upcoming season.”

The school self-reported violations that were traced back to 2013, with Arnold and then-assistant coach Brandyn Akana being relieved of their duties and star forward Isaac Fotu leaving the program around the same time.The school announced its self-imposed sanctions back in mid-May. The NCAA has yet to offer a final ruling on the investigation.

Benjy Taylor took over as interim head coach as a result, leading the Rainbow Warriors to the Big West tournament final where they lost to UC Irvine. This spring Hawai’i hired former Saint Mary’s assistant Eran Ganot as the program’s new head coach.

Hawaii has found its new head coach

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Hawaii has named a coach for the 2014-15 season after firing former head coach Gib Arnold and assistant coach Brandyn Akana on Oct. 28. The Rainbow Warriors named Arnold’s associate head coach Benjy Taylor as the acting head coach, according to a release from the school.

“Benjy will provide leadership and guidance for the UH men’s basketball program,” Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay said in the release. “while ensuring that our student-athletes continue to pursue athletic and academic success. The student-athletes have expressed to me their desire to have Benjy at the helm and that is how we will proceed as we prepare for the start of the 2014-15 season.”

Taylor is a former head coach at Chicago State from 2007-2010 and went 39-53 in three seasons. The 47-year-old Taylor has been an assistant coach at Hawaii since 2012 and can likely give some instant comfort to a program that needs to move on quickly from recent scandal and investigation as the season approaches.

Hawaii finished 20-11 and 9-7 in the Big West last season and also received bad news when junior forward Isaac Fotu, an All-Big West selection last season and a preseason All-Big West choice heading into the 2014-15 season, was declared ineligible in the NCAA’s investigation into the program.

This will be an uphill battle for Taylor, but with the season begin so shortly, this is probably the best short-term solution for the team.

Hawaii considering its options regarding NCAA investigation of basketball program


During last season news of the Hawaii basketball program being investigated by the NCAA surfaced, with the NCAA interviewing head coach Gib Arnold and assistants Brandyn Akana and Benjy Taylor in June. Akana’s case is an interesting one as he was suspended 30 days by the school, resulting in his missing 12 of the Rainbow Warriors’ final 14 games, after the school notified the NCAA in January of a potential rules violation involving a player who was looking to transfer to Hawaii.

Since those interviews the NCAA has continued to work on the case, with the interview portion investigation reportedly coming to a conclusion on Friday. Now the school has to wait for the NCAA to send an official Notice of Allegations, but according to the Ferd Lewis and Brian McInnis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser it may not take an official notice for the school to take action as the step of self-imposing sanctions is being considered.

Athletic director Ben Jay said, “we’re having internal discussions, we’re having talks with our people as to some of the things that we might do.” But, he said, “Nothing is solid yet.”

Jay declined to say if coaches and or players will be suspended or terminated.

“It is still a work in progress,” he said.

The report of Hawaii considering self-imposing sanctions came on the heels of Arnold releasing a statement to the Star-Advertiser in which he looked to reassure fans that the program is headed in the right direction. “We have yet to even receive a notice of any possible allegations from the NCAA,” Arnold wrote in the statement.

“Nor have we been given our mandated 90 days to respond to any allegations. If there has been anything administratively in our program where we have fallen short we will learn from it and correct it immediately.”

Based upon Arnold’s statement he clearly wants to wait things out, preferring to hear something from the NCAA before taking action. But does the administration feel the same way? Based upon the athletic director’s comments to the Star-Advertiser, it’s clear that there is the possibility of the school taking action before receiving word from the NCAA.

Hawaii announces addition of Senque Carey to coaching staff

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With assistant coach Scott Fisher one of two staff members who decided to leave the Hawaii program in late May, head coach Gib Arnold had a vacancy to fill on his staff. Thursday afternoon it was announced by the school that Senque Carey, who spent last season on Max Good’s staff at Loyola Marymount, was making the move west to Honolulu.

Carey, who played college basketball at both Washington and New Mexico has plenty of experience recruiting on the west coast and that should prove beneficial to the Hawaii program.

“We’re thrilled to have Senque join our staff,” Arnold said in the release. “I have known Senque a long time and even recruited him a bit back in the day. I’ve always been impressed by his work as an assistant coach, particularly as a recruiter and his ability to develop point guards.

“He has a great work ethic and major recruiting ties around the country. He’ll be relentless in his recruiting and his dedication to the University of Hawai’i. We’re very fortunate to have him join our staff.”

The second half of the 2013-14 season didn’t lack for issues at Hawaii, with the school self-reporting to the NCAA that a form used to get a player admitted to the school was altered, and assistant Brandyn Akana being suspended for 30 days as well. Akana and Benjy Taylor are still on the Hawaii coaching staff, and the program is still under NCAA investigation.

Report: NCAA investigating Hawaii and head coach Gib Arnold

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The NCAA is planning to interview Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold and his remaining staff members, according to a report from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

According to the report, a representative from the NCAA Enforcement Division is arriving in Honolulu on Tuesday to talk with Arnold and assistant coaches Brandyn Akana and Benjy Taylor.

This will be the third time the NCAA has interviewed Arnold and staff in the last few months.

“They are doing some final interviews. That is my understanding,” Hawaii Athletics Director Ben Jay said to the Associated Press.

The program has been investigated since a self-reported incident in which a form was altered to admit an athlete in January. Akana was suspended for 30 days, which forced the assistant coach to miss 12 of the team’s final 14 games, but the school never gave a reason for the suspension.

Hawaii plans on fully cooperating in the investigation and it’s interesting to note that two staff members recently took jobs at the junior college level earlier this offseason.

Hawaii calls it quits in Valdes eligibility drama

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Plenty of schools are waiting on eligibility rulings for important players, with UCLA and Shabazz Muhammad at the top of the list. In general, the plan is just to hunker down and wait for the phone to ring, hoping the caller ID shows an Indianapolis area code, and that the voice on the other end of the line has good news.

In Hawaii, that call would likely come at 6 am local time, so Gib Arnold has made certain his sleep won’t be interrupted by Mark Emmert’s investigators this season. He’s been waiting for final word on the eligibility of water polo-stud-turned-basketball-recruit Aaron Valdes. Weary of waiting, Arnold and the school have taken matters into their own hands. They’ll redshirt Valdes this season in hopes that the former La Jolla Waves star athlete will have four full years of eligibility left for the future.

Brian McInnis of the Hawaii hoops-centric blog Court Sense gives the skinny:

Well, the harrowing eligibility tale of Aaron Valdes seems to have met some resolution. UH coachGib Arnold said after practice on Thursday that the freshman wing will redshirt this season, regardless of any possible last-second 180 by the NCAA on his eligibility for the 2012-13 season.

The hope for UH is, after staying in the academic system for a full year, he will be eligible next season without having expended a year of eligibility.

This all might sound disappointing for UH fans, but keep in mind Valdes was a strong redshirt candidate regardless of the NCAA’s call; this just means he still likely will be unable to practice with the team in the meantime.

The fact that he put on a pretty entertaining show in the Ohana Hoopfest dunk contest (a runner-up finish to Garrett Jefferson) probably makes it a little tougher to swallow.

In the comments section to the article, a reader asked a valid question: “Brian, Am I reading your post correctly? Valdez to red-shirt but can not practice with the team?? I’m confused as to why that is.” McInnis replied: “Yes, the plan is to redshirt him academically so his freshman year isn’t burned. At the same time, the NCAA hasn’t cleared him as a member of the team so he’ll have to continue to sit out practices as well as games.  It’s a confusing and strange situation, I’ll admit.”

An amazing natural athlete, Valdes could have been a big help to the Warriors this season, but he needs some time to get his house in order academically. If he can get cleared by the NCAA to start practicing with the team again, he’ll have a chance to get his land-legs under him on the court as well. That’s the best-case scenario, and it was wise of the UH administration to cut bait in the short run.

(photo: La Jolla Prep Athletics)