Chris Gaines never did it for the attention. The former Hawaii guard piled up points, wins and accolades the only way he knew how — quietly.
Gaines, the all-time leading scorer in UH basketball history, died suddenly of a heart attack on Christmas Day in Orlando, Fla. He was 42.
Word of his passing spread yesterday, shocking his former teammates and coaches. Most had lost contact with the unassuming Gaines soon after his days as a Rainbow Warrior, when he moved to Florida.
Gaines, who put up 1,734 points between 1986 and 1990, had a wife, Diane, and three children, according to his stepmother, Clara Gaines.
"You think you have time to catch up, then all of a sudden, wow," said his former UH backcourt mate and roommate David Hallums. "He was a great player, a great teammate. Humble, never blamed anybody. He wasn’t a rah-rah guy. … He’s just such a big part of the program, and he never looked for the accolades."
Gaines, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, is more than 200 points ahead of the No. 2 UH scorer, John Penebacker. He had 33 20-point games and four 30-point games and holds the freshman scoring record at 480 points.
Gaines was highly touted out of Waterloo West High, being named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball as a senior. A recruit of then-assistant Bob Nash, he arrived in Manoa under head coach Frank Arnold and endured a coaching change to Riley Wallace a year later.
UH won 11 combined games his first two seasons, but Gaines was a cornerstone as the Rainbows continued to build under Wallace. UH won 25 games and made the third round of the NIT in his senior year, in which he was named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference.
1,734: Most points in a career
480: Most points in a freshman season
608: Most field goals made in a career
1,309: Most field goals attempted in a career
19,184,442: Most free throws made in a game, season and career
.874, .848: Best free-throw percentage in a season and career (tied five others for hitting 1.000 in a game)
3,391: Most minutes played in a career
25: Victories by the Rainbow Warriors in the 1989-90 season, the most the team has had
Though he appeared somewhat lanky at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Gaines was a model of consistency from his very first game. He averaged 17.1 points per game his first year, almost exactly his career average.
"He just did what you asked him to do," Wallace said. "He could shoot on those curls and coming off the picks. Great with the backdoor, because he could dunk on that. He was a jumper, too. He just was very, very, very coachable. Whatever you’d ask him to do, he did, and that really fit well as a teammate with all of his other teammates as well. Never a problem of any kind. Never one."
If not for academic ineligibility during the spring semester of his junior year, the shifty lefty might have been the only 2,000-point scorer in school history. He wasn’t a prolific 3-point shooter, but could punish opponents by exploding to the basket with either hand. He had an excellent hesitation move, which Hallums readily admits he took from Gaines.
Forward Tim Shepherd came into the program as a freshman when Gaines was established as a junior. He initially — and mistakenly — took Gaines’ low-key demeanor as laziness.
"Once he stepped on that court, he was all business," Shepherd said. "I mean, the things he was able to do with the basketball, to me were just amazing. He’d make catches where you think he couldn’t make a catch. He’d put up a shot or layup or put a move on, leave you figuring out how he got that shot up."
Hallums, a local player and transfer to UH, who was a year ahead of Gaines, watched from the stands when Gaines passed Penebacker for the all-time scoring honor and was presented with an engraved basketball by Wallace.
"In this day and age, you get hype just for starting two games in a row," Hallums said. "The guy should be in the (UH Sports) Circle of Honor. … He was a good guy, man. Definitely going to be missed."
"It’s a sad thing that happened to him, but I would hope that record stands forever, and leaves kind of a legacy for him and his family," Shepherd said.
Star-Advertiser reporter Stephen Tsai contributed to this report.