By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
GE Coleman has been named the new University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s basketball coach.
UHH athletic director Dexter Irvin officially announced Coleman’s hiring Monday, ending a three-month, nationwide search to replace veteran coach Jeff Law, who resigned after the 2012-13 season. Law spent 15 years at UHH while compiling a 208-188 record.
Coleman’s official starting date is July 1.
It’s Coleman’s first head coaching job. He was selected over two other added finalists. Initially, there were three other finalists chosen from a school-record 361 applicants for the NCAA Division II job. But none of those three was hired by Irvin and the AD dipped back into the group to add three additional finalists.
Coleman, 31, was the associate head coach at Central Washington University before accepting the offer last week to coach the Vulcans. News reports surfaced last week that Coleman had been offered the job and accepted it, but Irvin and other UHH officials declined comment until all paper work could be processed as well as getting final approval from UHH chancellor Donald O. Straney.
Irvin met with Straney on Monday and the school announced Coleman’s official hiring later in the day.
“I am very happy and excited to have such a quality coach and person as our new men’s basketball coach,” Irvin said. “GE brings strong recruiting and successful coaching experience to our department.”
Coleman takes over the UHH program from Law, who stepped down in mid-March after finishing last season with a 6-19 record and then accepting the head coaching position at Western New Mexico University.
Coleman was picked for the UHH job over Ferris State University (Mich.) interim head coach Andy Bronkema and ex-St. Martin’s University head coach Keith Cooper.
“I would like to thank Dexter Irvin and the search committee for giving me this incredible opportunity,” Coleman said. “I am looking forward to joining the UH-Hilo family and the Hilo community. With my experience recruiting and coaching successful teams in the West Region, I believe we can get the Vulcan basketball program to where we all envision it to be. We will play an exciting brand of full court pressure basketball and have a program that our institution and community can be proud of.”
According to information provided by UHH, Coleman is a 2005 graduate of Central Washington University and began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant at NCAA D-I Eastern Washington University (2005-07). He helped develop six-year NBA veteran Rodney Stuckey of the Detroit Pistons, the 15th overall pick of the 2007 draft.
Coleman then joined the CWU coaching staff in 2007. In five of the past six seasons, the Wildcats were among the top-10 NCAA D-II scoring teams and appeared in four straight Regionals (2008-11). The 2010-11 squad captured the West Region’s top-ranking and finished fifth in the final NABC ranking.
Coleman was the lead recruiter of 17 all-conference selections and three newcomers of the year as the Wildcats went 111-54 (.673 winning percentage) during that span. In the classroom, 10 players earned academic all-conference recognition.
“Having been part of very successful programs, GE understands what it takes to build a great men’s basketball program,” Irvin said. “I am confident he will work tirelessly to enhance the status of men’s basketball, athletics, and the entire intercollegiate athletics program at the university.”
Irvin also noted that Coleman has “a great background in running camps and community interaction.”
“Our team, our community and our institution will derive tremendous benefits from having GE as our coach,” Irvin said.
The first three finalists for the UHH job were Humboldt State University men’s basketball coach Steve Kinder, Grand Canyon University assistant coach Mark Nelson and Panola College assistant coach Guy Beach. Irvin said he offered the job to one candidate and “wasn’t able to finalize” the deal. He also said another candidate withdrew and he did not offer the job to the other finalist.
“After that happened, we chose to interview three additional candidates, and I offered the job to one of those,” Irvin said. “The three we added were all among the final 16 interviewed by the review committee.”
Irvin said Coleman will have five returnees and one signed recruit in place when he takes over as well as four scholarships to recruit additional help.
“I’m very excited and know it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s one I’ll embrace,” Coleman said in a telephone interview Monday. “We have eight to 10 guys we’re looking at now as potential recruits. Some have to go to summer school, but there are still some quality players out there and we’ll go after some of them.
“Of course, we’d like to add some size. But we’re going to try to bring in the best possible players we can as well as try to add depth. We’d like to have at least 12 players on the roster or possibly 13 or 14 depending on potential redshirts.”
Coleman, who considers recruiting one of his strengths, said he wants to rebuild the UHH men’s basketball program into a perennial PacWest contender and try to advance to regional play as much as possible.
He plans to be in Hilo by late next week.
Coleman will work directly under Irvin and although a salary was not posted with the original job description, it’s believed he will be paid in the $50,000 to $60,000 per year range. The new Vulcan coach also said he may bring in an assistant from the mainland to join his coaching staff.
A five-member committee headed by UHH Athletic Director of Compliance Pam Knox, whittled down the original list of applicants to a workable number before giving Irvin a list of the initial three finalists.
Other committee members were David Kaneshiro, UHH women’s head basketball coach; Dr. Randy Hirokawa, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UHH; Christine Iha, secretary to College of Pharmacy dean Jon Pezzutto; and Gary Klein, sales consultant for Big Island Toyota.
Email Tribune-Herald sports editor Bill O’Rear at email@example.com.