Scott Fisher knows exactly how many times he’s flown over the Pacific Ocean, from America to Australia and back. Fifty-six.
Now the Aussie basketball Hall of Famer has good reason to stop somewhere in between. Fisher was named the Hawaii men’s basketball director of operations under new coach Gib Arnold yesterday.
An American who became an Australian – in both spirit and citizenship – Fisher is well known in one of Arnold’s targeted recruiting areas. He is a three-time champion and two-time MVP in Australia’s National Basketball League.
A program’s director of operations oversees logistics and day-to-day needs, such as film exchange with opponents and traveling itineraries. It’s a notch below a full-time assistant coach, but slap an asterisk on his position at UH; there’s an important distinction with Arnold’s staff.
While associate head coach Walter Roese takes leave over summers to coach with the Brazilian national team, Fisher is freed up to travel for recruiting per NCAA rules.
"I think he gives us instant credibility and access to his contacts in Australia," Arnold said. "Anytime you’ve got a guy who played on your Olympic team, who is a Hall of Famer, a pro player, MVP, pro coach, and he’s on our staff … someone from Australia who grew up watching him, I think it kind of kick-starts in that region, and I think he’s a great hire."
UCLA head coach Ben Howland, a mutual acquaintance, helped set them up. Arnold interviewed Fisher at the Final Four in Indianapolis, and Fisher’s overseas experience was more important to Arnold than the fact that he’s been away from NCAA basketball since he was a standout player at UC Santa Barbara in the 1980s. Calls of support from Australian national coaches helped, too.
The San Jose, Calif., native played for the 1996 Australian Olympic team that finished fourth after gaining citizenship there in 1993. He retired from the Perth Wildcats in 2003 and went on to coach them from 2004 to 2008.
After he spent 21 years Down Under, Australia became his home. Fisher doesn’t speak with the accent, but the "Aus-merican" certainly looks the part of a hoops recruiter at 6-feet-8.
"I’m not going to change the way the game’s played, but maybe I can help a school here get some very good quality Australian student-athletes," the 46-year-old Fisher said. "There’s certain schools that I thought automatically you could cross off the list; (it’s) pretty hard to get a kid to go to some school in the Midwest or deep South. There wouldn’t be any connection. I think Hawaii is an obvious school for Australian kids. Similar environment, similar attitude, it’s not as far."
Fisher hopes for an assistant coaching job someday, but as long as he’s around basketball right now, he’s satisfied.
"It doesn’t matter. Smell the leather," he said.
Fisher succeeds Tim Shepherd, who was Bob Nash’s director of ops for the past three seasons.
Arnold has one remaining vacant assistant coaching position, which he plans to fill in August.