When Hawaii men’s basketball coach Eran Ganot made his return on Sunday evening against Maine, it was his first time on the UH sidelines during the regular season.
Ganot stepped away from the team due to an undisclosed medical issue before the season opener against Florida A&M on Nov. 8. Chris Gerlufsen was pressed into acting head coach duties shortly after and led the Rainbow Warriors to an 8-5 start.
After Ganot’s return was made official, players and coaches alike praised Gerlufsen’s work.
“Coach Gerlufsen has done a heck of a job, a fantastic job,” Ganot said. “I think the underrated part is the rest of the support staff as well.
“I know he’s expressed appreciation for the team support in every area to do a really nice job. I’m incredibly proud every day to put on the ‘H’ and couldn’t be prouder of them representing us during this stretch.”
The 2019-2020 season marks Ganot’s fifth year at the helm. For Gerlufsen, this season is his first year on the staff. Despite the initial lack of familiarity to the program, he quickly won over members of the team.
“Coach Gerlufsen did a great job,” starting point guard Drew Buggs said. “Coach Ganot did a great job establishing the culture and coach (Gerlufsen) did a great job taking over that and making sure that we stayed true to our culture and doing a good job of coaching us and controlling what he can control, making sure that we were playing hard and implementing his own style in that. It really worked out good for us.”
Before UH, Gerlufsen was previously an assistant coach at the University of San Diego for four seasons. Prior to San Diego, he was an assistant coach at Hartford University for eight seasons, where he also spent time as the associate head coach.
At Hawaii, Gerlufsen was thrust into head coaching duties on short notice but embraced his temporary role.
“Personally, it’s been a great individual experience but it’s the whole collection of the group. It’s the rest of the coaching staff. It’s the players. All we tried to do is be great caretakers of the program while coach (Ganot) has been away,” Gerlufsen said. “We wanted to make sure that when he stepped back in, that we’d return the program in a better place or same place. It’s great to have him back in the fold and by no means are we happy to be where we’re at in this season.
“But I am proud of the resilience of the group and just the fight that they’ve shown to go through as much adversity as they’ve gone through as a team up to this point, and to still be in a position where we like our chances for the rest of the season.”
As much as a whirlwind at it has been, the last two months have reaffirmed Gerlufsen’s desires to be an official head coach someday.
“It’s a lot of work. You are a caretaker of a program. There’s a lot more added responsibility in terms of your day-to-day, in terms of dealing with the media. Just making sure from an individual standpoint that the players are in a good place and then trying to juggle and run the staff as well,” he said of his duties as acting head coah. “It’s been a great experience, but again that’s a testament to the players and it’s a testament to the rest of the coaching staff. The foundation was built before I got here and all I tried to do was assume what was already in place.
“Again, it’s about the people and what has already been built. So for me, I loved the experience and I hope to one day be a head coach again. But I’m just thankful that we made it through and we have coach back.”