I had a plan for this offseason. I'd become kind of disenfranchised with the basketball team and hadn't written much about it, but had some kind of a plan for after the season ended. It was one post with a point, and an effort to spotlight someone I think very highly of.
Time started flying by and I never got around to writing it -- at least while it was relevant. I wanted to write about how Jeff Hironaka was too good to just be an assistant; how he deserved to be a head coach at a Division I school. In theory it seemed like a good plan.
It doesn't much matter anymore and I never expected it would be like this. If I were to take a guess what Hiro's next move would be, it would have been as a head coach somewhere. Instead, it's a step backwards.
On Friday night, a tweet he sent out caught my eye, both for the content and the name attached to it.
Well life has changes that affect your position— Hiro (@jeffhiro) May 12, 2012
He had been @coachhiro. Now he's @jeffhiro. Something had changed, and it wasn't good. Dropping the "coach" wasn't an innocent move, and those of us paying attention knew it.
The "coach" part is gone because he's no longer a coach at Washington State. He's moved to a director of player development and special assistant to the head coach role. It's a fancy title that says nothing. He won't be on the sidelines and won't be recruiting, but can fiddle around with gameplans.
Bone wanted another recruiter, because at this point he needs one pretty badly. I understand that and know this plays to Hironaka's strength. But it's still sad, in a way.
This all comes via Christian Caple. You can read more on his Twitter timeline and we'll pass along a link to his story when it's up.
This bothers me a lot. It's been bothering me all weekend, then all week. It's been eating at me in a weird way that's hard to explain.
I've always admired Hiro, both as a person and a coach. Every once in a while, when I was in Pullman for games or now that I'm living here, I'd see Hiro out running around town. He ran more in a day than I probably do in a year. Sometimes, he'd break out goofy outfits, others he'd just be jogging around in skimpy shorts.
His personality, though it didn't necessarily shine through in a public sense, was endearing. People love him. He genuinely cares about his players, his job and the people around him. His interviews are simply fantastic. It's refreshing.
You might not think this matters -- after all, he's just an assistant and assistants generally fly under-the-radar. He's easy to spot on the sideline and his story has been told*, but he's still just an assistant. And he'll still be around the program. But it matters.
*Read that link, then read it again. It's a story Vince Grippi wrote last year, and is one of the best things I've read from him.
Hiro's life has revolved around basketball for ... well, pretty much forever. He's a basketball lifer, devoted to the game and its teachings. He knows more about the game than any one of us could dream of, and probably more than all of us combined. He's meticulous, thoughtful and a student of the game.
And he's been the best damn coach on the staff, in terms of understanding the game and the x's and o's, by a million miles.
He has a weakness, though, and you can probably guess what it is. For all his skills on the court and in the huddle, he's not as strong of a recruiter as everyone else. Recruiting is, of course, a big part of the game. But what he lacks in selling, he's more than made up for in teaching, developing and coaching.
Still, never did I expect this to happen. If anything, I thought, or hoped, he'd get another head coaching job -- this time at the Division I level. I didn't expect him to be demoted -- something that likely sets his career back at an age where even small setbacks seem gigantic.
The premise of what I originally wanted to write remains true, even with this cruel twist. Jeff Hironaka deserves to be a head coach, deserves to run his own team. He's paid his dues over decades and is an even better person than he is a coach.
He deserves better than this.