Men's Basketball: A frank conversation with Riley

The Rainbow head coach speaks on a wide variety of subjects from his health to the Rainbow Classic



I finally got a chance to get out of the dungeon, or lobby level as we call it, of the Executive Center on Bishop Street, home of the Hawaii Sports Network. I was on a mission. Go to the UH athletic complex and find basketball coach Riley Wallace and then convince him to sit down and talk to me. As I walked towards the complex, I see this tall figure in the shadows staring at me. I make my way toward the shadow and then hear a familiar voice bellow "how are you?"  I was caught completely off guard. "Hey coach, just the person I was looking for." For the next 30 minutes or so, Riley Wallace talked about his recent brain surgery to remove two subdural hematomas, the upcoming season and the future of the Rainbow Classic.


SR: How long has it been since your surgery?

RW: Two weeks tomorrow (today). I went in on a Thursday morning, but they couldn't do the surgery because they had to change my plasma because I was on blood thinners, so they did it the next day. They (doctors) said it would be three months before I'll be back to the strength I was before the surgery. Anytime you have your head cracked open, your body tells you to take it easy. I've had headaches off and on, but that's normal.

SR: Why have you returned to work so soon?

RW: I'm just here part time.

SR: Were you scared at all flying back to Hawaii from the Mainland?

RW: No, it didn't bother me. You do wonder when you take off if you'll feel the pressure changes and if it'll hurt.

SR: How many days were you hospitalized?

RW: Eight days

SR: How were you treated?      

RW: It was a great hospital and great doctors and nurses and everybody was fine. It was very boring.

SR: Has this at all changed your perspective on life?

RW: Well, no, but it helps you to help others. Probably the best message I can give is that if you ever feel different with headaches or anything not to wait, go get it checked out.

SR: Are we going to see a kinder and gentler Riley Wallace come basketball season?

RW: ahhhhhhh….NO. They said no head butting and screaming, but I'm sure in three months I'll be back strong. The last couple year's things have changed. The kind of team we have you coach differently. You coach to your personnel and this personnel listens and respond to coaching. It's not as hard.



             RSN's Scott Robbs talks story with basketball coach Riley Wallace

SR: With Midnight Ohana just around the corner on October 11th, tell me a little about your team and the WAC.

RW: Were going to be exciting. We have four starters back. They (media publications) have us picked either first or second with Tulsa. Louisiana Tech is going to be good.

The conference is going to be better then it was a year ago. Reno has four starters back as well. SMU and Rice feel like they are improved. Fresno probably won't be as good, but will have a different look. We'll be right there. With four starters back and some guys that were young last year that are more ready to play for us this year. With the returnee's and the four new scholarship players we'll be very good.

SR: Do you think participating in the last two NCAA tournaments will benefit Hawaii if you aren't able to win the WAC tournament?

RW: That should help, plus our commissioner (Karl Benson) is on the selection committee. That all should help. It would have helped if we had advanced in the tournament, probably. With Karl Benson on the committee, at least I will not be concerned that they know what we've done and how we've done. He'll carry that message for the WAC. Our schedule is not as tough as I'd like for it to be, but it's as tough as I could get it. Our preseason ranking is 39th by Andy Katz of ESPN. A year ago it was like 140 something.

SR: How can the University get more students to attend the games?

RW: The key, I think, is to have a fun team to watch and have excitement in the arena and they will come. They're typical college students. They like the excitement and the rah-rah, it has to fun for them…a happening.

SR: What is the future of the Rainbow Classic?

RW: It'll be good. ESPN is coming in and were going back to before Christmas next year. ESPN is come in and do the (Rainbow Classic) and the Hawaii Bowl. So, were hoping, whether or not it is next year or not, that we'll have better teams.

If you have questions or comments, please contact Scott Robbs via e-mail at:

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