comscore He was born to battle | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

He was born to battle

    Gib Arnold brings his passion to practice.

Gib Arnold feels it every day.

The urge to compete. The fear of failure. It gets him up in the morning and keeps him awake at night. His father described it to him at a young age as a "tiger in your belly."

Arnold, 42, still doesn’t know exactly what that means. The tiger, however, is still there, and it’s hungry. Especially now that he’s in command of his father’s old post as head basketball coach at the University of Hawaii.

He loves the clarity of competition — no middle ground. The black and white of winning and losing.

The Arnold name in Hawaii basketball has long been associated with the latter; Frank Arnold coached UH to an 11-45 record from 1985 to ’87.

Gib knows it, and embraces it. Rebuilding a Hawaii program — the Rainbows haven’t been to the postseason since 2004 — goes hand in hand with redefining his surname in the islands.

"It’s a huge internal force. Especially here, but even if it weren’t here," he said. "I went into coaching because of my father, and I don’t want to" — he paused — "shame would be a hard word. But I don’t. I don’t want to shame the Arnold name."


» HIRED: March 20, 2010, becoming program’s 19th head coach


* 2005-2010 USC, assistant coach: Instrumental in helping USC achieve a record three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, three straight 20-win seasons and the winningest four-year stretch in school history.

* 2003-2005, College of Southern Idaho, head coach: Posted a 57-14 record, including a 33-3 mark in his second season. His golden Eagles won the 2005 Scenic Weest Athletic Conference title and the Region 18 Tournament and advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association tourney, where they finished third. In 2004, CSI went 24-11, won the Region 18 tourney and advanced to the NJCAA tournament. Named District 13 Coach of the Year in both of his years there.

* 2000-2003, Pepperdine, assistant coach: Duties included recruiting and overseeing the team’s defensive schemes. The Waves won more Division I games in his tenure then during any other four-year span in school history.

» HIGH SCHOOL: Punahou

» COLLEGE: Arizona State, Dixie State College (Utah) following a two-year Mormon mission; completed career at UC San Diego, where he helped the Tritons to a school-record 17 consecutive wins and a No. 3 national ranking in NCAA Division III.

» DEGREE: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Brigham Young.

» PERSONAL: He and his wife, Lisa, have five children: Analise, Ashton, Ally, Addison and Ace.

It’s why he keeps volumes and volumes of handwritten basketball diaries in his office, 60 accumulated over the last 20-plus years. Why he, the UH coaches and players learned a haka and won over the crowd at the preseason Ohana Hoopfest.

By pulling from his father’s tireless work ethic and his own ability to connect with people here and abroad, Arnold forged a fresh start.

TO WATCH an Arnold practice is to understand his aggressive style. Any perceived slacking, anything less than maximum effort by a player, and Arnold takes it as a slight to the coaches and the rest of the Rainbows. He lets the player know it. Loudly.

UH assistant coach Benjy Taylor follows up with positive suggestions, or "putting out the fires," as he calls it.

Arnold’s drive to succeed goes beyond the basketball court. One of Taylor’s first memories of Arnold, back in 2000 when the two were Pepperdine assistants, is playing cards at the other’s house. The games lasted until about 2 a.m., "just so someone could feel comfortable going home," Taylor said.

Much of the reason Taylor rejoined him in Hawaii was his confidence in Arnold’s high charisma and analytical mind to get the job done.

"If he wasn’t coaching, he’d be a CEO of some Fortune 500 company," Taylor said. "He’ll be in there ripping those guys up and doing haka practices before the board room meetings. … We’re just lucky to have him in the profession."

THAT SEEMED destined.

Arnold grew up closely following his father, who won three national championships as an assistant at UCLA and three Western Athletic Conference titles as a head coach at BYU.

"I’m sure a lot of it comes from him. He was an unbelievable competitor in his own right, and so I think some of it’s just how I’m genetically wired," Gib said.

It was that or contend as the only boy among five children, with three sisters older than he.

So young Gib would follow his father to the office, do his homework there, and bounce a basketball on the side while Frank’s teams practiced. By the time Frank coached UH, Gib was a standout player. He starred at Punahou as a point guard.

"In my dinner table, we didn’t talk politics or very few social issues. We talked matchup zone and fullcourt press and scouting reports," Gib said.

Tony Sellitto, the former HPU coach, led Maryknoll at the time. He had a chance to take the young Arnold on a traveling team to the mainland. They’ve since reconnected and Sellitto has sat in on several practices.

"It’s obvious when you watch him, he was a very hard worker, and he was very intelligent," Sellitto said. "He picked up things immediately. And so I think he expects his team to do the same thing." He chuckled. "I like his style."

Frank Arnold visited Gib and his family in Honolulu during the preseason and was impressed with how his son has related to the public.

"Very proud," Frank said. "People are going to relate to him and he relates to them, and I think he’s going to have a good tenure here. He wants to stay here as long as they’ll keep him."

GIB ARNOLD fully appreciates the chance he’s been given. When he was in college, he made a list of 10 places he would like to coach one day. UH was one of them.

"(Coaching here), it’s a show of respect to my father," Arnold said. "And I want to do the best I can, and here even more so because he was here before and struggled, and it didn’t go the way he would have liked it to have gone. And he had a tough experience here. My experience was different. I had a great experience here.

"We got a mulligan for the family," he continued. "So I’m trying not to hit it out of bounds. I’d like to hit it long and straight down the fairway."


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