Growing pains or disturbing trend?

March 28th, 2012

Does Joston Thomas leaving the University of Hawaii basketball program a year early raise concern? Or is it just symptomatic of the way things happen now in college hoops?

Are others on the way out, such as Vander Joaquim, Bobby Miles and Trevor Wiseman?

Is Hawaii the kind of program that can thrive with players coming and then going without using all their eligibility, or do the Rainbow Warriors need to develop players in order to compete?


What follows is something I wrote about Thomas in 2011 when Arnold basically but him in timeout for a few days for insubordination. Much of it is still applicable today.

When things are going well for him, Joston Thomas is the brightest star in the universe. When they’re not, he’s sullen and he’s sullen for all the world to see. To this point, the talented Hawaii sophomore forward never hid his emotions, and that’s part of what makes him so much fun to watch when he’s playing well, but it’s also a part of what got him in the doghouse.

Of course it’s disappointing to ride the bench when you’re used to playing heavy minutes. But you can’t show it to the whole arena. When you do that you’re disrespecting your teammates, your coach, and by extension, the entire program.

And you can’t continually argue with your coach and expect no repercussions.

Thomas is a very likable person, and seems to always means well. He tries to be a good teammate and is very genuine in his encouragement of his fellow Rainbows. But if he can’t function consistently as part of a unit — in good times and bad — he’s not going to be a good teammate or player, not to mention the team leader he wants to be, and could become with some maturity.

I’m glad first-year coach Gib Arnold and Thomas have patched things up. I look forward to watching Thomas electrify crowds at the Sheriff Center through the next couple of years. That is, if he truly realizes his role on the team. Because if he doesn’t do that and he becomes even more of a distraction, there’s no way Arnold can keep him on the team. Perhaps sitting in Honolulu while his teammates won a game on the road without him helped wake up Thomas.

Arnold’s goal, as it has been from the beginning, is to get Thomas to consistently perform in a way that helps the team; when Thomas doesn’t try to dribble or shoot from outside too much, he’s fine, he has some great games and helps the team win. When he gets fancy, he doesn’t. It’s simple as that.

When you have a young player who sometimes thrives on emotion but also sometimes hurts himself and his team with it, the question is if that emotion can be reigned in without breaking his spirit and losing the positive energy that can come when it is displayed at the right times.

In Joston Thomas’ case, I think it can. But he shouldn’t test Gib Arnold’s patience again if he likes playing basketball at UH.

17 Responses to “Growing pains or disturbing trend?”

  1. Sabaidee:

    You are stirring the pot. How about some positive stuff coming out from you. You act as if we are a member of a BCS conference. This will never be a great program unless you get our fair weather fans to open up their pocket books. Look at our bb facilities, hardly anything to brag about. Did you see today’s McDonalds allstar game? These high school kids are much more talented their our bb players. I will take 18 wins a year including the tournament games. Lets all be positive and start donating to bb program. Get Donovan to do his job. And I beg you to be positive and let Thomas and the others go their way. Go Rainbow Warriors, beat Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara and other Big West teams.

  2. aaron:

    if more players leave, that means that more than half of gib’s recruits either don’t stay or don’t get accepted by the university. even if you want to play devil’s advocate and say that’s okay, we should at least get better than .500 for it. for me, this style of recruiting and retaining players makes me uncomfortable.

  3. Trent:

    Coach Gib’s salary increased by $100k this year, right? So for $100,000 all we got was one more win in the tournament than last year. Donovan should give him $400k. Then maybe we make it to the big dance.

  4. kev-1:


    Since when is posing legitimate questions considered stirring the pot? If you don’t think it is a real concern, you’re kidding yourself.

    By the way, those are real positive statements in you post begging for people to be positive:

    “look at our facilities, hardly anything to brag about”
    “get Donovan to do his job”
    “these high school kids are much more talented [than our] – corrected it for you – bb players”

    And then you proceed to plead for positivity? Funny.

  5. innocent observer:

    gib now knows how difficult it is to recruit to hawaii. another factor is his coaching style; somehow, he does not really connect with his players; there has been too many problems between him and individual players, which comes out publicly. this is a bad situation; maybe he is a good coach of the game, but not a good coach of the players. having so many players leaving disenchanted is not a good sign.

  6. Derrick:

    Thomas’ leaving has nothing to do but a good guy who needs to grow up. His lack of maturity is why he is normally a good guy by everyone’s standards and very likeable but has moments where you are left scratching your head. I think this was a good move for him and the team. The only one I’m worried about is Vander leaving for the Angola National Team. But Brian McInnis said on the Sports Animal’s radio show that Vander’s education is important to him so I hope he comes back.

  7. hon2255:

    this recruiting season right now is crucial for the program, Gib needs to land a scorer,who can shoot off the dribble ,creating his own shot, and play defense, another need is for power forward, and a point guard with size, skills to handle , pass, decent outside shot that can give us 10-15pt per game., He and his staff have their work cut out for them this coming LOI day. This is the payoff season coming up , roll over, or sink into the Pacific. Go Warriors.

  8. maasteruke:

    lots of great comments today. I agree with with Aaron concerning Gibs style of recruiting. As the leading recruiter you would think he would know admission requirements for UH. Yet he continues to after players
    who are borderline. I also agree with Trent. Gib has one season under his belt and he gives Gib a 100k
    pay raise. This year Gib wins less games, has less people in the house maybe we can get a refund on the pay raise. Also agree with Innocent. When you go to the Stanley and you see Gib breaking his clipboard, screaming at players for all the crowd to see says a lot about Gib. He may be passionate for the game but his lack of control over his emotions has a lot to be desired.

  9. hilorain:

    The questions that must be asked are:

    Do we want recruits that all qualify, are good citizen and play out their eligibility OR
    Do we want to win.

    The answer to the first question was Nash, Gib is trying to be the answer to the second.

    Gib is recruiting in the grey area of trying to get recruits that can play but may have some kind of baggage. Nash went the safe route and didn’t win. I would prefer Gib’s approach. Unfortunately with this approach you may miss more often than you hit, but in the end if we can win, all is good.

  10. Kevin:

    Gib seems like the type to break his clipboard because he KNOWS people are watching.

  11. che:

    I’m in a wait and see mode but I do feel more worried about Gib Arnold than I did at the end of his first season. Barnes and Thomas leaving early is a concern but I’m waiting to see how he develops as a game coach and teacher. I don’t think Zane, Tevor and Vander got better from Gib’s first season. Zane’s health issues hurt but Vander was my biggest disappointment. Although Vander is an all WAC center I expected more. He improved so much from the start of his first year to the end of his first year. I expected him to improve more in his second year but to me he didn’t seem to get that much better.

    Anyway they still should have a good team next year.

  12. Dallan:

    WOW! All great comments and concerns . . . I think it is a combination of both growing pains and disturbing trends.
    1 – Gib is groing into being a Head Coach – he may be a great Recruiter but he is not as strong of an X/O coach. He may have had great mentors but he needs more time to learn how to make in-game adjustments and not just yell at his players.
    2 – His recruits are learning the Division I game and most of these kids come from high school where they were the star or co-star and they have to ‘learn’ how to buy into the Coach’s plans for them.
    3 – Gib’s assistants take on his personality and thereby also become an angst for the players, they need to be more of the opposite, i.e. more caring, supportive and understanding. No – not a buddy but more of a “players” coach.
    4 – The money/pay increase is gone – spent . . . (no refunds). Just hope for improvement next year including player relations, in-game decisions and qualified recruits.
    5 – Gib has had “run-ins” with several players or allowed them to act-out thereby hurting the team, including Vander, Josten, Jordan Coleman, Brumfeld, Bo Barnes, Trevor, Bobby Miles, Christian, Brandon, Shaq and on and on . . . Instead of trying to be like Bobby Knight – maybe Gib should try to be more like Coach K, John Calipari, Rick Pitino or even the legendary John Wooden!

    Best wishes for a great summer “Bows” . . . get stronger, faster & better!

  13. Goin2Play:

    As Coach Gib has stated before from some advice given to him as a coach, “Build for your 3rd year” or something along those lines. Basically, Coach Gib had a short recruiting fuse his 1st year and took some chances his 2nd (because we are not a BCS or ACC program who is going to get a 4-5 star recruit with excellent academics and attitude…but, we may get someone who is a very late qualifier or has potential along with those challenges seen in Josten Thomas). As Coach Gib has stated, although a lot of recruits did not qualify, he was able to create stronger relationships with these potential future recruits after they travel through the JC routes, which he had assisted them with (kind of like a farm club for UH). We shall see if the fruits of his labor are realized and then we’ll judge his effectiveness as a recruiter!

  14. rainbowfan:

    Seems like Gib has more one and dones, two and dones than Calipari and some leave even before they finish a year at UH.

  15. Adam Thompson:

    The coach is absolutely the problem here. Once Vander is gone this team is going to be pretty darn bad.

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