His contagious energy overflows.
The trap here is that Gib Arnold’s animated aura could be mistaken as a symbol of what to expect when his first team of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors takes the court this season.
Just watch a few practices, and you’ll know: This team will be more about setting the perfect screen than executing the perfect run-out. They’ll take a lot of charges, more than pull-up jumpers off the 3-on-2.
And this — which UH fans should find most encouraging: Maybe they won’t run the break, but it’s unlikely they’ll run away. This isn’t the most athletic bunch, but they’ll be physical; they won’t get pushed around without retaliation like last year’s 10-20 squad.
We don’t know for sure if in-team drama lies ahead with so many new players, but these guys look like they can and will have each other’s backs.
They’ve muscled up. Joston Thomas is put together like an NFL tight end. Even the guards are yoked. If June Jones were still around, he’d be recruiting at Gym 2 every day.
THE STYLE of play question is one of the first every new head man is asked.
Billy Booster: "You’re gonna run, right Coach?"
Skip Sportscoat: "Of course we’re gonna run. Enough to break the scoreboard. Now, about that check …"
But Arnold wisely embraces the long view. He knows that if you give fans or media the smallest opening, if you even hint at an up-tempo game, the expectation will be triple digits, every time out.
Paul Westphal, whom he assisted at Pepperdine, is one of his coaching influences.
"I’ve worked with three NBA coaches and two of them focused on defense," he says. "(Westphal’s Pepperdine teams) never played a lick of defense, but we were great on offense, and that’s where I learned about pick and roll."
Make no mistake, this team is being built defense first. Defense, rebounding and toughness.
THIS IS WHERE we’re supposed to tell you not to expect miracles right away, that you shouldn’t even dream about UH climbing out of its half-a-decade funk, that you shouldn’t bother plotting vacation for March.
But it’s hard not to buy into Arnold — because he doesn’t over-sell. He says he needs two more recruiting classes.
"We still need to get athletic, deeper," he says.
You admire his guts, for going after and getting a job that at first glance is the last place where he should be — but then again makes all the sense in the world because of our island culture’s most treasured value, that of family, ohana.
Arnold’s an up-and-comer. There are other schools who would eventually provide him an opportunity to be a head coach. But he’s here — not just for himself, but for generations of Arnolds.
He wants his wife, Lisa, and five children to learn first-hand why he loves living in Hawaii.
"Now my kids are able to have that same experience I had."
He wants to make things right for his father. If it had gone better for Frank as UH’s head coach, Gib — the all-state guard — would’ve graduated from Punahou buff and blue to Hawaii green and white.
"The biggest thing we’re trying to sell is passion. We have the passion and the work ethic," he says. "That’s all I’ve got right now. We will be relentless in how we approach this."