It was Gib Arnold‘s turn on Thursday.
A day after Hawaii acting head coach Benjy Taylor offered up a 30-minute press conference, Arnold, the ex-coach, gave his own press conference in his Kailua abode, to the Star-Advertiser as well as KHON and KITV.
Arnold got emotional at times, near the end especially when he spoke of the missed opportunity to lead this team.
Here is the transcript of the interview, which lasted about 20 minutes.
Video highlights may be found here.
You were let go without cause. Why? Do you know the answers?
No. Not at all. Haven’t been told anything. In my dismissal, it was, I heard about it from my wife, who heard about it from the radio. Who heard it from a friend. About an hour later or so, Ben Jay came to my office and read me a three-sentence statement and put a piece of paper on my desk.
He read you a statement?
Whether he read it (or not), it was a very short … and he had a piece of paper in front of him. And then (pauses) left. I got up and they were escorting Brandyn Akana out of the office.
There are no public allegations against you … is there something we don’t know?
You know, it’s so confusing for me, because I’ve been in this from Day 1. And it’s very frustrating, because you know, I’ve been very proud of how we’ve run this program. And the questions that I’ve been given or been asked over the last few months (pauses), I don’t know where they’re pulling from it or what they’re taking from it, from the answers. There’s a due process that is, that the NCAA mandates. You know, and what’s going to happen … is probably in the next two or three weeks we’ll get a confidential letter of allegations. And I’m sure it will be mysteriously leaked to the Star-Advertiser, and Ferd Lewis. We’ll probably get an email from the athletic department telling us we’re not supposed to do that, we can get fired if we share confidential information. Probably be a few nasty articles, referring (to) us as Charles Manson or whatnot. But then something beautiful will happen; there’s actually going to be a process, that the NCAA allows as part of this. There will be 90 days of which we’ll be able to read everything that they’ve said. So when you ask me if there’s something out there that you don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ll be able to read what others have said about us. And at that time, I’ll be able to sit down with my counsel and look up information. Say, ‘wait a second, they said this on this date, where we have documentation that proved this.’ My counsel will then be able to talk to those people that, other people that they interviewed. And cross-examination, and find out where the differences lie. And that’s a process set up by the NCAA. It has not happened yet. So the idea all along, was hey, we’ll wait until this process happens, we’ll find out what the allegations are, and probably, once we’ve put out our information, a number of those allegations will be disproven. A few of them will probably have some truth or some partial truth to them, that we’ll agree … to some reason. And there might be couple too like, wait a minute, we disagree with this. We disagree with this statement. And that’s the process, through the NCAA. Once they’ve heard both testimonies and everything, it’s their job to determine, OK, do we believe this staff with 60-plus years of NCAA coaching with not one single violation in 60 years, or do we believe this person. Or this ex-employee. Or this disgruntled ex-player that says this against this player. Or do they believe the current players. That’s their job. But that never happened. We never got to that. And my goal all along, was, that’s when you find a solution. That’s when you work it out. That’s when you sit down with the program, the administration, the NCAA, and say, OK, here’s an issue. We need to correct this. It may not just be the basketball team. It may be administration. It may be education. Let’s correct this. And if there’s discipline to be given, then give it at that time. And I would have accepted that, wholeheartedly and understood. But when a verdict was made, when only one attorney was able to choose his witnesses and give his version, without anything else, you can understand why it wouldn’t make sense. So, again, you ask me is there anything you don’t know. I don’t know.
Since the start of the investigation, questions that you went through, did you think this day would come?
No. I didn’t. The only time, I mean when I first started, I didn’t even have representation. We self-reported it. There was a mistake made and we’ve admitted to it, that one of my assistants made. It was a mistake. It was out of character. It was a mistake based on some information that he had received, that wasn’t correct. But he made a mistake. We self-reported that. And I figured the process would then be, this is what to do. This is what they tell us to do. They always tell us, if you find something, you self-report it. We did.
The mistake that was made, it never got out? Never left campus? Never submitted to government or NCAA?
No, I don’t know how in-depth I can go, but what actually happened was, once they realized it wasn’t the proper information, the proper information did come in by the source. And so that was submitted. But, again, I don’t know how much I can or can’t get into that. But when I found out, within 30 seconds I was on the line with Ben Jay. I said, ‘this is what’s happened, this is the situation. Let’s take it from here.’ And then there was pretty much silence for a long time. It started spinning out of control.
Do you feel like there is anything that will come out that would indicate you could have been let go with cause?
That’s a fair question. And, I don’t. I never have. And the questions that were asked, we gave them honest and complete answers. Now, underneath the new NCAA legislation, every part of the program falls onto the head coach. Every part. Every assistant, every administration. A DOBO. A secretary. And you’re basically guilty til proven innocent. That’s a tough way to live. And it’s new. I’ve had a lot of coaches call me and tell me, ‘you’re the first victim of this new legislation.’ So, you know, again, not knowing, not being able to talk to your assistants about what’s going on, not knowing what other questions are out there, very difficult for me to answer, saying … I know the questions I was asked. I felt very confident, as did my attorney who said, ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I don’t see a smoking gun.’ You know, never in our wildest dreams did I expect to have a piece of paper put on my desk.
Are you hoping to be reinstated someday?
You know, we’ve never fought for that. I’ve heard a lot of people bring that up, and (pauses), you know, I’ve loved it here. We built something special. We did it the right way. If there were mistakes that were made, sorry. I would have liked to have been part of the process of creating the solution. That’s all I ask. I think at the University of Hawaii, we’re great at finding the problem. We suck at finding the solution.
Would you rather get your UH job back or clear your name?
(pauses). Clear my name. No doubt about it. Clear my name. Again, I’m not a perfect person. My assistants aren’t perfect people. But, give us a chance, just to say, see what’s being said about us. See where the truth really lies. And the NCAA does give you that opportunity. I’m not bashing the NCAA. They’re doing their job. We made a mistake. And we submitted it, and told them we made a mistake. And that’s what they’re supposed to do. I have no problem with the NCAA and how this has been handled by the NCAA. In fact, I think they’re doing a good job.
On the decision being made at the chancellor’s office? Board of Regents out to get the program?
That’s a great question. I mean, I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve heard a lot of things, like a lot of people have, and a lot of people’s names have been thrown out. People that, you know, haven’t been pleased since I got here. There’s always been a very small (contingent) of people who never wanted me here. I get that. That’s part of coaching. You have your allegiences. When something comes out in the Star-Advertiser that’s negative, there’s a group of people that think that’s WRONG, there’s a group of people that CHEER, there’s a group of people that doesn’t think here or there. That’s part of coaching. When non-leaders are put in leadership position, stuff like this happens.
On Isaac Fotu being ineligible:
Kills me. … I don’t know (if he’ll play this year), but it kills me. And I haven’t even been able to reach out and help him. I haven’t been able to ask him, what’s the issue. I was told the day before I was let go, I was pulled in and told that they were going to make him ineligible. I asked, what is he being alleged of? How can I help? And they wouldn’t tell me. They said, ‘I can’t tell you.’ How can I help him if I can’t, what am I supposed to tell him? What am I supposed to tell his parents? They said, just talk to him and help him through this. Yeah, of course I will. But how? I don’t even know what he’s being alleged of. I can tell you, I have nothing, zero, to do with any of this. They never asked me questions regarding any specific thing with Isaac Fotu, along any lines, that I know of. So, that’s very troubling, when a great kid. Not a good kid. A great kid, is told you can’t play, and we’re not telling you why you can’t play.
Was this the year to do something special?
Yeah. Yeah. I think we worked really hard to get to this point (barely audible whispers), to where I had a special group of guys. I had NBA-talented players. And we were young, and we had great leadership in Garrett. We had great players in Fotu and Jankovic and Negus and Mike Thomas grew up and Aaron Valdes. Our freshman class was the best ever. I’ve had top-25 teams, and I felt this was the best team I’ve ever had the opportunity and pleasure to coach. And so did the guys. And that’s what’s killing them — they’re feeling like this has been taken out from under them. And they continue to be told it’s for your good. And I don’t buy that. And neither do the guys. They don’t believe that, when they were told ‘this is done for you.’ They don’t believe that.
What does this do to your career, can you work D-I again?
(I) could be done. You know, I mean, again, Google my name. See what comes up. It won’t come up, ‘highest team GPA.’ It won’t come up ‘winningest percentage coach in the history of UH.’ It won’t come up ‘great group of guys.’ (Or) ‘20-loss program to a 20-win program.’ It’ll come up, ‘NCAA investigation, fired.’ It’s hard for an AD to sell that to his people. So, you know. But that’s the least of my worries. We’ll figure something out. You know, try telling an 8-year-old kid he can’t be the ballboy.
On Benjy Taylor:
I support Benjy. He’s a really good guy, and a really good friend. I think he’s been put in a tough situation. And like I told the players, when I was able to meet with them for 20 minutes, I support whatever decision they make. If they want to stay, and a new guy, bring in another guy, I’ll fight for them to keep their scholarship. They want to go, and they need help, I’ll support whatever their family decides. And I told the same to Benjy. There’s no ill feelings between me and Benjy whatsoever. He’s got a family to feed. They’ve asked him to do this. This wasn’t the game plan. Our game plan this year was to win, to have this team be a Top 25 team and then take it a step further next year with the talent we had. … Unfortunately, it changed.