Warrior Beat: Retro Night

Phil Handy was a key member of the UH team that qualified for the 1994 NCAA Tournament. The Rainbows will pay homage to that team in tonight's Retro Night. / Photo by Stephen Tsai

It was 25 seasons ago when the Rainbow Warriors ended a drought and upset BYU in the WAC title game to earn a berth in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.

It was a time when Jamie Dixon was the third assistant coach, Tony Maroney was a true back-to-the-basket 7-foot center, Phil Handy was a tough-as-rails defender, John Molle riled opponents’ fans while earning his own theme song (“Mo-lay, Mo-lay,” a parody of Buster Poindexter’s “Hot, Hot, Hot” chorus) and, of course, Trevor Ruffin.

It was after a workout in which Ruffin, channeling Tim Hardaway‘s crossover moves, that teammates were asked for a description. Chris Walz said Ruffin was the “real deal.” Soon after, Ruffin earned the nickname “Real Deal.” (That’s something for Evander Holyfield to chew over.)

The thing about that magical season was it began with a chill. The Rainbows opened in the Great Alaska Shootout, never breaking 50 points in any of the three games. (in the opener, Portland was a heavy underdog because it was without its best player. Portland ended up winning, 100-47.) After the third Shootout loss, Riley Wallace famously yelled to the players: “I don’t blame you. I blame the coaches who recruited you.” By the way, Wake Forest was led by some freshman named Tim Duncan.

After the 0-3 start, the Rainbows went straight to Chapel Hill, N.C., to play the Tar Heels. It was there where a lawyer made his radio debut. From Alaska to Jeff Portnoy to the NCAAs against Syracuse (Portnoy’s alma mater), that season went full circle.

In homage to the 1993-94 team, tonight’s UH-Long Beach State game has been declared “Retro Night.”

* * * * *

Long Beach State’s best player is 6-3 guard Deishuan Booker, who is averaging 27 points in five Big West games. Here’s a quick chat:
> On his BW surge: “I guess it was kind of a switch (being flipped). I got more focused, more attention to detail. And my coach needed more from when (Temidayo) Yussuf went out. … I mostly play the point. Sometimes they take me off the ball a little bit because I get double-teamed now and it helps me get some looks. That’s the only time I’ll get off the ball.”
> On his ambidextrous ball-handling: “I actually write with my left hand, but I shoot with my right. I’m comfortable with my left. I eat with my left. When I was at a young age, I used to play only with my right hand and tried to do all these crazy layups. For four weeks, my dad made me train with just my left hand and use my right hand behind my back. All my workouts were just with my left hand. It taught me to dribble with my left hand.”
> On the 49ers’ goals: “I think we’re heading in a good direction. A lot of the guys we’re playing with, this is the first time being in the roles they’re in, whether it’s starting or primary ball-handling. It’s just a learning experience. The preseason helped us a lot. You have to work so hard and be so on point early in the season. You can’t just relax, and learn as you go, otherwise you’ll be exposed bad.”

* * * * *

Some instructors believe in the wade-into-the-water approach, some believe in the toss-you-in-the-pool method. LBSU coach Dan Monson is a tosser. The 49ers’ pre-league schedule included five Pac-12 opponents and nationally ranked Mississippi State.

“I feel we’ve always tried to use the preseason as a true preseason,” Monson said. “We try to make ourselves go against good competition and see if that can help us get better. It’s always been a philosophy of ours to give them some reality and hopefully then we can know what to work on. You can yell at your kids all you want if they don’t rebound good enough. But when you get pounded by Mississippi State on the boards, the next day in practice you have their attention.”

For the record, MSU had a 52-34 rebounding advantage over the 49ers.

Monson said the 49ers have been inconsistent this season.

“We start the league 2-0 and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves, and now we’ve lost three in a row,” Monson said. “We have to get ourselves consistent and make sure we get better. The team that’s going to the NCAA Tournament from the Big West is the team that’s improves the most. We’re focused on that.”


  1. jm2375 January 31, 2019 1:59 pm

    Great Aloha Shootout or Great Alaska Shootout?


  2. burro sabio January 31, 2019 2:22 pm

    Elua, Ni, Dos, Two, second

    Yeah the Great Aloha Shootout, organized by Carole Kai after the Great Aloha Run. Actually that’s not a bad name for one of the pre-season tournaments…

  3. clyde January 31, 2019 2:26 pm

    Stephen: Remember being told to tell Riley that if the team can’t score 50 points, we ain’t covering them? IIRC, they scored in the 40s in all three losses in Alaska. It’s incredible how the team turned it around during the course of the season.

  4. Da Punchbowl Kid January 31, 2019 2:43 pm

    Fourth! Wow Stephen. You either have a great memory or you take excellent notes!

    A shout out to JM. See you on Sunday!

  5. Da Punchbowl Kid January 31, 2019 3:03 pm

    Speaking of BYU, wasn’t that the era when their fans would sit behind the back board and act like they’re reading newspapers whenever opponents shot free throws?

  6. ALLAN January 31, 2019 4:11 pm


  7. ALLAN January 31, 2019 4:15 pm


  8. Stephen Tsai January 31, 2019 4:26 pm

    Hey, remember the Aloha Classic?
    Met some interesting players, scouts.
    I remember Marty Blake was raving about a skinny 6-9 guy with limited playing experience. It was Dennis Rodman.

  9. islandman January 31, 2019 6:33 pm

    Another skinny guy, Nate Archibald of UTEP played in the 1970 Aloha Classic scored 51 pts in one game and averaged about 41 pts over three games. He was a last minute replacement for someone who withdrew.
    Per the web, he was the MVP. Others on the All-Tournament team were Jim McMillian (Columbia),
    Dave Cowens ( Florida St.), Joe Hamilton (N Texas St) and Seabern Hill (Arizona St).

  10. Whitey January 31, 2019 7:13 pm

    Ok Col A on my way to watch SB in the city of lights. Which tea, ovehr or unda.?

  11. Aaron January 31, 2019 9:55 pm

    watching John Molle, Jr flip off the crowd at the WAC Tournament was pure gold. Luckily, one of my high school teachers had a tv with cable in her classroom so we could watch the game during lunch.

  12. cappie the dog February 1, 2019 5:12 am

    Hawaii was down eleven at that game in BYU.

    Portnoy, in the waning seconds, said, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!” Not very original, but it did feel like a miracle. I think the game at Chapel Hill was where Akana went for something like 28 points, and Dean Smith personally went out to shake his hand after the game. Portnoy, was a lot blunter in those days, which is why I remember that Tony Maroney kept dropping the ball each time the ball was passed to him. Portnoy said, “He has hands of clay.” Hawaii played well. You got the sense that they turned their season around, in defeat. The next year, Akana had another good game against North Carolina and Dean Smith said, “Akana. You kill us every time,” or something like that. Prosser, was that his name, the Wake Forest coach was quoted as saying, “I am not going to pretend we played a good team.” I thought that would motivate Hawaii, but they got blown out on the third night, too. I forgot who.

  13. cappie the dog February 1, 2019 5:35 am

    Dawson Carper didn’t go for 13 this time, but he scored in consecutive games. He followed up his breakout game with 4 points. He scored 1, 1, and 2 to start the season, but this is different.

    The production from the center position is why Hawaii is winning with style points: 29 and 10 against UC-Davis, and 21 and 12 against Long Beach State. What can you say about Zigmars Raimo? Scores double-digits twice in limited numbers because of early foul trouble. 11-14 from the field. His field goal percentage is closing in on .600, just like Issac Fotu. Mate Colina and Carper are starting to learn that if you dunk the ball, you reduce the chance of being blocked. Zigmars Raimo can run the court. He scored on a breakaway layup. There was also this basket where he faked out his man and shot the ball from the other side of the basket WITHOUT MOVING HIS PIVOT FOOT!

    Cautiously optimistic. They could lose to UC-Santa Barbara and you split a four-game home stand, then suddenly Hawaii looks lame. But these past three games have been entertaining, not just a rote exercise in being a good fan for showing up. I hope the attendance doesn’t spike on Saturday. This never helps. THEY ALWAYS LOSE WHEN EXTRA PEOPLE SHOW UP!

  14. cappie the dog February 1, 2019 5:36 am

    “limited minutes”

  15. A-House February 1, 2019 6:51 am


    I believe Rams will win and over.

    their DL may be too strong for New England OL

  16. Buffoman February 1, 2019 7:48 am

    ST, I too have done memories of working with Ralph, Ruth, Red and Fishback when the Alpha Classic rolled into town. Too bad it had to end.

  17. Buffoman February 1, 2019 7:50 am

    Sorry spell check. “Have” not done, ” Aloha ” not Alpha.

  18. jm2375 February 1, 2019 10:08 am

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen that many airballs, especially on free throws. Wow.

  19. winning February 1, 2019 11:52 am

    HOOPS:: Tony Maroney was never a ball of fire, he was a like a lumbering T-REX. FOOTS: Improve stipends, training table, facilities, etc. Than we can grumble about not being able to recruit better players. And/or coaches. DONOR PROGRAMS: HOW ARE THE DONATIONS DOING FOR FOOTS? MAYBE GOTTA EVALUATE OUR AD?

  20. Na Alii Pride February 1, 2019 12:55 pm

    #5 – That was Wyoming. And it wasn’t just the guys behind the basket, it was the whole damn arena. And they would throw the paper when they were done introducing the players. They used to play in an arena where the court was laid over a rodeo ring. They weren’t as tough when they moved to their brand new arena.

  21. clyde February 1, 2019 1:07 pm

    #20: The Wyoming students would hold up newspapers in front of them as if they were reading it and start to “rustle” them. Then, as each UH player was introduced, they would lower the paper and shout, “Who’s that?” then go back to “reading” until the next player was introduced, followed by “Who cares? or So what!” and on and on. It was choreographed and so funny even the UH players would laugh along. Too bad UH students couldn’t come up with something like that. And yes, the “arena” smelled like a rodeo.

  22. Old School Dave February 2, 2019 6:57 am

    Former conference opponent from the old WAC to expand stadium.


    UH used to regularly beat Utah before they decided to make a commitment to improving and investing into their program. In the meantime, Hawaii is concerned about building condos, a shopping mall, and the Swap Meet with their downsized 30,000 seat stadium.

    “Eh, just wrap some duct tape around those beams to hole em in place!”

  23. cappie the dog February 2, 2019 7:37 am

    winning: Tony Maroney was Pangaea.

  24. Na Alii Pride February 2, 2019 12:22 pm

    Clyde – #21 – wow I forgot about that part. Thanks for bringing back those memories. Yeah too bad UH students cant come up with something like that, we’ll, those that actually come to games.

  25. Whitey February 2, 2019 4:08 pm

    COL. A thank you.

  26. Stephen Tsai February 2, 2019 4:41 pm

    New post: http://www.hawaiiwarriorworld.com/?p=48174

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