Garcia Top Notch; Lakers’ Mess

It wasn’t as successful an HIC Pro this year for the Kaua’i crew as last year’s impressive collection of results, but there were some deep runs, and the Hawaii representatives more than held their own against the international field.

Oahu’s Sunny Garcia, winner of the HIC Pro way back in 1992, was the last man standing and grabbed the first-place prize of $15,000. Granger Larsen, Gregg Nakamura and Freddy Patacchia rounded out the all-Hawaii final heat.

Kaua’i’s Alex Smith and Nathan Carvalho surfed their way into the quarterfinal round, in which 13 of the 16 remaining competitors called Hawaii home. That was one round further than Dylan Goodale and Roy Powers, the pair of Kaua’i surfers each reaching the Round of 32.

Pancho Sullivan, Tyler Newton, Koa Smith and second-seeded Sebastian Zietz all were stopped in the Round of 64. Chris Foster, Danny Fuller and Gavin Gillette were eliminated in the Round of 96. Jesse Merle-Jones and Kaimana Jaquias, two of the eight Kaua’i surfers to reach last year’s quarterfinal round, were knocked out in the Round of 128.

* I suppose all the Lakers needed to get off to a slow start was for me to pick them to win the NBA championship. I had no idea that my praise would be the kiss of death to send them to a 1-4 start and cost head coach Mike Brown his job.

I was stunned to learn that Brown had been fired. Initially it seemed like the only explanation was that the Lakers felt the mix of star power they have assembled would be too much for an X’s and O’s guy like Brown to manage. You don’t remove a head coach just five games into an 82-game season unless you have a surefire replacement lined up.

Or so I thought.

Once Brown was let go, it seemed inevitable that Phil Jackson would be back on the Staples Center sideline within a few games. The so-called “zen master” seemed to be the only option to come in and cure the personality problems L.A. has been facing. He was able to do the same with Kobe and Shaq once upon a time, and he has gotten the Lakers to five titles since 2000. Again, unless there was a major behind-the-scenes incident that required immediate action, you don’t fire a coach of a team with this much potential without a premium replacement ready to go.

The Lakers led Jackson to believe he had a few days to make his decision, then informed him they had hired Mike D’Antoni prior to that deadline, only makes this whole process more baffling. It seems like either a miscommunication that should never occur on that large a scale, or an outright act of contempt and disrespect for an 11-time NBA championship coach. The Lakers aren’t exactly beloved by the rest of the league, and now they may have some hostility lobbed at them from their own fans.

The choice, itself, also is a curious one. I think Mike D’Antoni is a good coach and could even be great when he has the right players and a team assembled the way he likes it. But I’m a Knicks fan and have seen what Mike D’Antoni is – and what he isn’t. What he is can be a great offensive mind who lets talented players do their thing. What he isn’t is involved in his players’ progress or interested in structure or discipline when it comes to practice and defense. Before his departure from the Knicks, New York’s practices were known for being lax and somewhat chaotic. He would rarely interact with players on a personal level. He basically showed the team how he wanted them to play offense, then rolled the balls out and expected them to perform.

That’s not what the Lakers need. The Lakers have Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Those guys are going to figure it out offensively, no matter who is on the sidelines. What they need to do is understand and learn what their identity is going to be. They need to start trusting one another defensively and not giving up as many easy baskets as they have to this point.

Those traits are Jackson’s bread and butter. He turns guys who shouldn’t fit together into compatible players who can coexist and thrive. The fact that Jackson was about to accept the head coaching job and the Lakers dissed him to go in a considerably worse direction makes me wonder how the men upstairs are handling their organization.

I won’t take back my championship prediction, but everything the Lakers have done has been a surprise to me, so I suppose I’ll expect the unexpected.

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