By Brian McInnis
Hawaii director of basketball operations Kerry Rupp is leaving that position to take a full assistant job with Wayne Tinkle's staff at Montana, he confirmed on Friday.
This is unsurprising. Rupp as a DOBO was always a curious arrangement, to say the least. The former four-year LaTech head coach made the best of his reduced role — day-to-day and travel arrangements, primarily — and leaves with well wishes from Gib Arnold and the other UH coaches after a single year here.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity I had here," Rupp said. "Coach Arnold, known him for a lot of years, and it was really an honor and a pleasure to work for him for a year. I really enjoyed the staff. Enjoyed the players. It couldn't have been a better opportunity for me at this point in my career. The experience was unbelievable, I'm just really indebted for that. But looking forward to getting back to an assistant (job) where I can get on the floor a little bit, and be a little bit more involved in that, which is what I'm more accustomed to. ... But to be the director and take a step back and kind of evaluate and look at things, I think in the long run it could be even more valuable."
It's believed strength coach Chris McMillian, who is on the verge of getting his masters degree at UH, is the likely successor as the DOBO.
Arnold couldn't yet comment on McMillian or who else would fill the position, but he glowed about Rupp's contributions in his relatively short time here.
"I think (Montana) is a great move for him. He he was well overqualified to be the director of basketball operations, and that gets him back to coaching, and back to recruiting, which is what he does best. Quite honestly, it was the goal we had coming in here. Coach is a really good friend, he was out of the business and wanted to have him come out here, help him out and keep him in the business. But help him find a place to go if there wasn't a role up here. He's a type of coach that needs to be on the floor and should be on the floor, so I support this and helped him get it. I think it's a great fit."
Montana (25-7) won the Big Sky Conference and was a 13 seed in the NCAA tournament, losing in the round of 64 to Wisconsin. The Grizzlies thumped UH 94-79 in an ESPNU BracketBusters game on Feb. 18 in Bozeman, Mont. UH will host Montana in two years for the mandated return game.
"I think they'll be picked to win the Big Sky next year, and he'll have a chance to really help out there," Arnold said. "We're going to see them."
Rupp is looking forward to it.
"I was very impressed with them when we played them up there, and I think Coach Tinkle is a very, very good coach. I think it's a special time to be at Montana. They won the league and have done extremely well there in all his years, and have a lot of players returning.
"(Coming back to play UH) will be like going back to play LaTech. Anytime you go back to somewhere else you coached, it becomes a big game for you. Definitely, I have a lot of fond memories of being here. I'll look forward to the opportunity come back. Hope it's a good game."
Lastly, Rupp thanked team secretary Bobbie Omoto for helping him get acclimated to the program. As for things he'll miss: "The aloha spirit, the family feeling you get here at the university. And I don't know about going back to wearing suits and ties to games. I kind of like the aloha shirt. And it's unbelievable to wake up every morning and it's 74, 75. You got those tradewinds blowing, window down every morning. I think I'll miss that come wintertime."
Now that the paperwork of 6-foot-2, 170-pound Canadian guard Manroop Clair is official, Arnold could comment on his addition to next year's team. Here's a brief Q & A on Manroop.
Q: Overall, what does Manroop add to the team?
A: A player like him, he's exciting to watch, I think he's going to be exciting to coach. He's got great range and very, very good ball-handling skills. And, like I said, self-made player, that's one of those guys who spends a lot of time in the gym. I like guys like that, in fact I need guys like that. They want to get better and they're coachable, and they do nothing but keep getting better. I've always enjoyed coaching guys like that. I was pretty much a gym rat growing up, and really, really like guys who feel the same way about basketball as I do."
Q: He's on the younger side (17). Is he a redshirt candidate for you, or is that to be determined?
A: I don't think so at all. I think he's going to come in here and fight for major minutes.
Q: His shooting range is what seems to be his most notable attribute. Is it as legit as advertised?
A: I think it's legit. I think whether he's shooting it in Canada or shooting it here, the gym is still the same size. And he's hit a whole bunch of deep 3s. Obviously he's going to have to adapt to the college game and play against players who are older and bigger, but our goal here too is to work with him and help him get bigger and stronger and faster. And so that's our commitment to him, and we're definitely committed to that. I think he's as talented and as good as a shooter as was out there, at all this year. He's at an elite level of shooting.
Q: He's got some passing ability that would allow him to play the point, as well?
A: He is a point guard. He's played point his whole life. He has the ball-handling ability to play the point, and the shooting range to play shooting guard as well. He's a true combo guard in that sense, in that he can play both positions.