Gib Arnold figured it was time to let someone else do the talking.
The Hawaii men’s basketball coach hasn’t yet reached an agreement on a new contract with UH athletic director Jim Donovan, but he did reach a decision on one thing — taking a step back from negotiations.
In the first year of his three-year deal, Arnold led UH to a 19-13 record and its first postseason appearance in seven seasons. He was hands-on in all aspects of the program — from recruiting to teaching in practices to fundraising — but will try a hands-off approach in this new arena.
With attorney Russell Kaupu empowered as his representative to negotiate face to face with Donovan yesterday, Arnold instead focused on overseeing his returning players in workout sessions.
"He’s done contract stuff before. … I’m the worst person to negotiate for myself," Arnold said with a laugh. "I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to that. I just want to coach and do that stuff. I’ve asked Russell to help out with that. He’ll be meeting with Jim and just figuring all that stuff out. I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out."
Arnold operated throughout his first season as a Division I head coach without a full contract, but was due an annual base salary of $240,000 based on "major terms of agreement" that were signed upon his hire. He could be due upwards of $300,000 in any new agreement.
Arnold and Donovan previously met face to face in Kailua to discuss one based on his first-year performance, but nothing was finalized based on that conversation.
"You gotta know your strengths and your weaknesses. I guess that’s one of my weaknesses," Arnold said.
Donovan and Kaupu, of The MacNaughton Group, met for about 3 hours yesterday in Donovan’s office. Nothing was resolved at the end of that meeting, and there is no timetable for an agreement. In theory, Arnold could go into the 2011-12 season with the same basic terms of agreement.
However, one gets a sense that both sides want to get something done.
"He (Kaupu) is going to get back to me this week," Donovan said. "We’re just talking, we’re talking." He couldn’t comment further.
"Obviously, I make no bones about it — I want to be here," Arnold said. "I want to be here long enough to build this program and see the fruits of it."
One of a few points of contention is the length of a possible contract extension, with shorter, incentive-based rollovers on one end and a longer, guaranteed term on the other.
Arnold said a longer term is important for recruiting, especially for his philosophy of going after four-year-eligible players.
"To build it right I think it takes time, I don’t think it’s an overnight fix-it place. It’s not always easy because you’re bringing in freshmen and you’re sticking with them and they’re getting better, and you’re doing it that way," Arnold said. "I’m a big believer of that. To do that you need a long-term contract, not a short-term contract, or it doesn’t fit."
Three freshmen are signed for the 2011-12 season and UH currently has one more scholarship to give.
Recent contracts for the two newest WAC coaches, Michael White of Louisiana Tech and Rodney Terry of Fresno State, could raise Arnold’s value; they each were reportedly awarded five-year contracts. According to the Fresno Bee, Terry’s annual salary is $350,000 plus incentives.
On the other hand, Hawaii leaves the WAC for the Big West Conference after next season, where the average salary drops.